02 September, 2019
Wildlife activists say they have rescued what may be the world's last surviving members of a highly endangered species of water frog.
A team of conservationists captured 14 Loa water frogs earlier this month in northern Chile, a wildlife group reported. The team also included representatives of Chile's government.
There are more than 60 known species of water frogs. The amphibians live in several countries in South America.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Loa water frog as "critically endangered." The not-for-profit Global Wildlife Conservation group said the 14 frogs were in poor condition when they were discovered in late June. The animals were small and struggling because of a lack of food and water.
The Loa water frogs are known to live only in a single body of water near Calama, in Chile. The city sits in the middle of the Atacama Desert, where water is in great demand.
There was little water in the area where the frogs were found, the conservation group reported. The frogs' environment had mostly dried up because water is being taken away and used for human activities, the group said. The activities include mining, agriculture and land development.
"All of the frogs had been pushed into a tiny pool of muddy water," the organization said. "The team collected the last 14 individuals and brought them to the National Zoo of Chile to start a conservation breeding program."
Zoo specialists are closely watching the small creatures and trying to give them everything they need to survive and be healthy. The team said it had contacted water frog experts from around the world to seek advice for their efforts. Zoo workers plan to launch a mating program for the frogs in an attempt to expand the population.
"The first big challenge is to help these frogs survive," said Alejandra Montalba, director of the National Zoo of Chile. "While the rescue was the best chance to save the Loa water frog, there are always risks with trying to care for a new species - especially when the animals are already struggling."
The Amphibian Survival Alliance is providing financial support for the rescue effort. The group's director, Helen Meredith, said in a statement the operation gives her "great hope" for the Loa water frogs. "They face an uncertain future but have a group of champions committed to their survival."
Conservation groups have called on Chile's government to take steps to halt any illegal water usage that threatens the frogs' natural environment. They would also like to see creation of a government-supported sanctuary to protect the animals.
Jon Paul Rodríguez heads the IUCN's Species Survival Commission. He proposed that an emergency plan be developed to prepare the Calama area for the frogs' return.
"We need to work very hard to restore their environment because it's pointless to breed them if they don't have a home to go back to in the wild," Rodríguez said.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on information from Global Wildlife Conservation. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
species – n. group of plants or animals that share similar qualities
conservation – n. the protection of animals, plants, and nature
amphibian – n. a creature that lives both on land and in water
breed – v. to reproduce
challenge – n. something difficult that tests someone's ability or desire
uncertain – adj. not sure of
sanctuary – n. a place that provides protection; a shelter
restore – v. to make something good exist again; to rebuild or recreate