viernes, 25 de febrero de 2011

Working together for the conservation

Working together allow us better results, this is the reason that this year two students are coming to work with us.
Marina, a student from Bulgaria that is doing her master in Holland, came to do her research with Telmatobius culeus in the Lake Titicaca. She is both using our current methods and improving some things; her work will provide very interesting data about the population size and habitat preference of the Titicaca lake frog--information we can use for conserving these amphibians in the future.

Marina working with us in the Lake 

Eleonore, a student from Belgium, came to work with us for four months in all the localities where we are working. She will also help with the captive breeding of frogs, education of local communities, and her experience will help us to improve our work. This work is part of a internship program that we are developing with some institutions, so both sides will benefit from this joint work.
Sarah (left) and Eleonore (right) waiting to go into the water and search for frogs

Sarah, a biologist from USA that is spending some time in Bolivia, became interested in the project while staying in Cochabamba. She joined our team to help with fieldwork throughout Bolivia, and came along for this trip to Titicaca.

Our team also started to teach English to the people of Sicuani. They requested that we teach them English because their town depends on tourism, and they realized that English is an important skill to develop this activity further. This is a great opportunity to start introducing ideas about conservation to the locals, and to involve them in the recuperation of this critically endangered species' habitat.

             Kids from Sicuani learning English

We are very happy that foreign institutions and individuals are interested in protecting our endangered species. Having students come from all over the world helps us both by providing valuable research and by bringing new ideas and methods to Bolivia.

frog juice

Frogs are under several threats, like habitat damage, invasive species, and overharvestation. Frogs are harvested by people for food, medecine, and spiritual reasons; the Lake Titicaaca frog is no exception. We wanted to witness the trade in frog juice; to do this, we had to cross the border to the small town on the Peruvian side of the lake, where we saw how people prepare this special mix of several ingredients: soup of frogs, sugar, chicken eggs, brewer's yeast, honey, maca, and a raw frog. These ingredients are mixed in a blender and then offered to the local people as a restoritive drink.

Some of the women that buy the juice told us that they drink one or two cups of the juice every week for eye problems, for brain enhancement, and any other heath problems. People selling this juice claim that it offers a “cure” for almost everything, even unknown diseases. Previous studies found that these juices can contain nematodes and salmonella, among other things.

One of the problems of this situation is that a lot of frogs are captured for this activity, even though this species is critically endangered. One frog seller told us that he collects about 500 to 1000 frogs every 15 days. Given that there are a lot of people selling the juice, you can calculate more or less how many frogs are collected every month or year.

Like we saw before, this activity is starting to enter Bolivia. In El Alto city and Cochabamba, you can see people offering the “cure,” while exploiting these frogs. It is necessary to start doing something to avoid this situation in Bolivia and to protect our species. 

martes, 22 de febrero de 2011

big frogs in the lake

One of the species which we are working with is Titicaca water frog, this time we went with our team, Ugo a young student that is going to study biology and want to learn the work that one biologist do normally, together with Ineke, Rodrigo and our friend from the local community Nelson and his father Hilario.

Rodrigo and Ugo in search of frogs with the help of gustavo and their friends

We did our transects diving and with snorkel in the area were normally do and found some dead individuals that we collected, also some small and medium size individuals.

Next day we had a meeting with the new authorities about our work and some ideas for the future and they invited me for the community meeting the next days. This opportunity will allow us to work better with them.

The meeting with the local community

Then with our motor boat we went to one place that we did not check before, first we did not find too much and then a big frog! Then we started to see several frogs, all of them big!! . Later we also found individuals in amplexus it was a nice opportunity to dive and to take pictures and film this couple. Minutes later we spotted a huge frog in the bottom the lake about 5 meters of depth again an opportunity to dive and this was the biggest frog we saw in this 3 years.

A couple of frogs in amplexus

Then in the meeting with the local community after a short presentation they told us that they were interested to work with us and also they want to try to find some way to protect the species, probably with ecotourism, or other activities that will not affect the species and the habitat.

recording the coordinates were we find the frogs

We also saw the Jack Cousteau documentary he filmed in 1973 and the work with the frogs, showing the very interesting findings and estimating the size of the population. It was very interesting to see how the people from the community were very excited about the film because they recognized areas and people.

After this trip we realized that there are some areas that still with big frogs and also in good conditions and we hope that we can work in the conservation of these populations and work together with local communities.