Consortium of international groups prevents imminent clearing of critical amphibian habitat in Guatemala
Two rare salamander species lost to science for nearly 40 years have not only been recently rediscovered, but a consortium of international groups has protected some of the last remaining forest home of the salamanders just in the nick of time. Critical habitat of the Finca Chiblac salamander (Bradytriton silus) and the long-limbed salamander (Nyctanolis pernix) in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes mountain range had been slated for imminent clearing for coffee production.
“The establishment of the San Isidro Amphibian Reserve as the first Nature Reserve in the Western Highlands of Guatemala is a great conservation success,” said Marco Cerezo, executive director of FUNDAECO, the local NGO that helped identify the 2,000-acre parcel of land and will oversee management of the property. “It marks the beginning of a regional effort to support the protection of forests in the northwest of Guatemala, a region of exceptional biodiversity. Thanks to all our partners that came together to create this sanctuary for unique and endangered amphibians.”
In the 1970s, a young Paul Elias and Jeremy Jackson entered the cloud forests of the Cuchumatanes and discovered two entirely new salamander species, the Finca Chiblac and long-limbed salamanders. These two turned out to be missing links that tied together the evolutionary tree of New World tropical salamanders. The salamanders went unseen for more than three decades. Then, in 2014, Carlos Vasquez, coordinator of the amphibian conservation program at FUNDAECO, led an international team of scientists that included Elias and Jackson to the site where he had rediscovered them more than 30 years later.
“To see this reserve take shape under the imaginative genius of Carlos Vasquez and partners, and to be able to help that happen in a small way, is the culmination of a forty year dream for me,” Elias said. “This incredibly biodiverse cloud forest on the oldest mountain block in Central America is home to the missing-link species and genera we found there all those years ago. Many other species of great interest have already been found and many more will follow at this exceptional site.”