Thursday, Jun 17, 2021

Panama Biologist Raises Money to Fight Illegal Frog Trade

The money raised is reinvested in conservation and research projects on frogs.
Samuel Sucre, a local biologist says that the sound of frogs is the "music of the woods" and that it is very sad not to hear them. For this reason, this Panamanian biologist has a project to protect them by promoting their breeding and legal and controlled sale.

After receiving environmental permits, Samuel Sucre periodically goes out to the swamps of Panama , a country of abundant biodiversity, in search of some "parents" for his Natural Tanks hatchery.

"Few individuals are collected. Through a few parents we begin to breed a lot and in several generations. We collect 12 individuals in the field" maximum in each outing, explains the 31-year-old biologist.

Then they reproduce in captivity, where about 400 tadpoles can come out of two pairs of frogs.

"The purpose of this hatchery is to be able to invest in conservation and research through commercialization," he details.

But how can you protect frogs by selling them?

"Many species that we have here are victims of illegal pet trafficking, in Panama nobody breeds them and they are trafficked by big mafias. As long as there is no legal offer, there is no way to stop that," he considers.

So, "if you take a coveted species - some are worth up to $ 1,000 in the illegal market - and raise them legally and sell them, then you lower the price" and the illegal market is affected, he adds.

In this way, he says, "pressure" is taken off wild species. He says that breeders from other countries have criticized him for "damaging" the market with his proposal.

The money raised is reinvested in conservation and research projects. They conduct talks on environmental education in schools and research on reptile diets.

His plan is to export to the United States in the next few months.

In one of its urns, a tiny frog curls up on a leaf, as if asleep. It is the Agalychnis callidryas, or red-eyed frog, in great demand. While the red arrow frog (Oophaga pumilio) appears among some leaves, with intense red skin with black spots.

"They play an important role in ecology, in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, they control insects and water quality," explains Sucre.

According to the Ministry of the Environment, in Panama there are approximately 220 species of amphibians and about a third are under threat. Some have disappeared due to diseases such as fungi, but also due to deforestation and extraction from their wild habitat to feed the lucrative illegal trade.

Panama is home to the golden frog, an endemic species that is considered extinct in its natural habitat and can only be seen in zoos and specialized hatcheries.

"I know it is controversial because the pet market has behaved very badly historically, but I see a potential for the pet market to become an ally of conservation," says Sucre.

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