glass frog

Jose Vlelra / Tropical Herping

One of the most amazing frogs you’re likely to see belongs to the Centrolenidae family and is commonly called the glass frog. It has earned its name because of its beautiful transparency. In most cases, you can literally see through the small frog’s skin, and view the frog’s internal organs through its belly.

A new member of this family was recently identified in the Manduriacu reserve in Northern Ecuador. Unfortunately, almost as soon as it was identified, experts learned that it was also endangered.

Mining, logging, and corruption threaten the new species

There’s a reason that it took researchers such a long time to identify this new frog. Its habitat is an extremely limited area in the reserve’s river valley that is located at an altitude of 4,000 feet. Though it lives in a protected reserve, the area has been deemed safe to be open to both logging and to gold and copper mining activities which are continuing to expand. As a result, the newly discovered amphibian is at risk along with several other species.

How did the owners of the reserve let this happen? Although mining companies are given permits from the government, they’re legally required to check with any landowners and community members that may be impacted. In this case, the mining company didn’t fulfill the requirement. While turning to the courts could provide recourse for those against the mining, others are skeptical that a lawsuit would bring about the desired result. Courts have shown a precedent that supports mining activities. In addition, there’s an established history of corruption in Ecuador. In one of the most notable cases, the country’s vice president was sentenced to six years in jail for accepting $13.5 million dollars in bribes from a construction company in Brazil.

Threatened glass frog is spectacularly distinct

The Manduriacu glass frog is spectacularly distinct, standing out as special even amongst a group of its species. That’s because the tiny amphibian is more yellow than green, and it has unusually distinct separated toes that have somehow lost the webbing common to many frogs. To see these features together in a glass frog is remarkable.

Other species that are impacted

In addition to the newly discovered frog, the reserve contains several other threatened and irreplaceable species. These include the Tanadayapa Andean toad, which was thought to have gone extinct until it was refound in the reserve. One of the planet’s most endangered primates, the brown-headed spider monkey also calls the area home.

What is being done to help

Conservationists in the region are alarmed by the recent activity and they’re not standing by. They’re taking steps to have the newly discovered frog listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They’re also maintaining a targeted clarity about what their conservation goals are, focusing on an extremely small amount of land area that is located in proximity to the river. Their top goal is to ensure the land remains untouched and the water doesn’t become contaminated.

Conservationists are also doing everything that they can to communicate the problem so the public can understand what is happening and can advocate. Luckily, the newly discovered glass frog is the perfect subject to help them gain the attention that they need. It is adorably photogenic and upon its discovery, pictures of the amphibian and its story quickly spread across the internet. However, along with its story is the story of development in the region and of all of the other animals that are equally at risk. With this publicity, as the public learns more about the area, there’s a reason to believe that it will support the tenacious conservationists that are working to help.