A message from SAVE THE FROGS! Advisory Committee Chairman Michael Starkey:
I hope all is well and I hope you are enjoying the beginning of the new year! I spent the last month in Belize searching for rare species of frogs and I gave presentations to student groups and conservation organizations about amphibian ecology and conservation. I had such a wonderful time and I want to share my experience with you!
In late December, I gave a presentation to the staff of the Belize Zoo. One of Belize’s leading conservation organizations, The Belize Zoo works to find balance with wildlife and people by promoting environmental stewardship and fostering a respect for the great wilderness of Belize. I also gave a presentation to interning students of the Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic and to a group of students from Illinois.
I greatly enjoy spreading Save The Frogs’ message of amphibian conservation, but I absolutely love getting out into the field! During my stay I had many opportunities to get out into the forest to find amphibians.
Even though this time of year is the “dry season”, some amphibian species were breeding. This egg mass belongs to the Vaillant Frog, Lithobates (Rana) vaillanti. These eggs hatched in only 4 days!
We discovered adult amphibians as well, including some charming toads! This grumpy looking individual is a Gulf Coast Toad, Incilius (Bufo) valliceps. One of the more common toads in Belize, this species can be seen in a variety of colors.
It would not have been a trip to Belize if the impressive Marine Toad had not been seen! This particularly large individual lives under a gigantic buttress root and was observed often. Marine Toads are also known as Cane Toads and are considered an invasive species in other parts of the world. However, in Central America they are indigenous. To learn more about these amazing amphibians, please read this article I wrote about toads in Belize: http://www.sanpedrosun.com/pets-animals/2012/10/08/toads-are-toadally-terrific/
I was fortunate to find a few Mexican Tree Frogs, Smilisca baudinii. These large, arboreal frogs are much more common during the rainy season.
I also found many Vaillant Frogs. As juveniles this species displays a strikingly gorgeous green coloration on their head.
Vaillant Frogs are also the largest species of frog found in Belize.
One of the most exciting finds on the trip was the discovery of the Maya Mountain Frog, Lithobates (Rana) juliani. It is considered an endemic species to the Maya Mountains, meaning that it is only found in Belize. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is considered Near Threatened because of habitat loss. There is a good chance this species is at risk from the nefarious chytrid fungus, but further studies need to be conducted. When more surveys are conducted, I suspect this amphibian will become listed as Vulnerable.
I recorded data on the frogs that were found by taking measurements of various morphological structures (body length, feet, etc). I then captured a few photographs for identification purposes and then quickly released them back out into the forest. This was an particularly interesting discovery as these Maya Mountain Frogs were found in an elevation that is much lower than what has been previously recorded. What an exciting find!
You are cordially invited on a 10 day Eco Tour of Belize starting on July 11 and ending on the 20th. From birds to bats to bugs, we can expect to see many different species of animals on this expedition to Belize. With nearly 600 species of birds in Belize, it is no wonder that bird-watching is such a common activity! We will have the chance to see magnificent species like Keel-billed Toucans, Black-headed Trogans, and Blue-crowned Motmots. Mammals are much rarer to see, but we have the opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing charismatic megafauna such as the jaguar and the Baird’s Tapir at the Belize Zoo. In the field, we will hear the marvelous roar of the Howler Monkey, see basilisk lizards darting across our path, and we will see occasional animal tracks. When we go out into the forest at night, we may see many/fascinating creatures, like the kinkajou, sleeping iguanas, and of course the exceptionally cool Frogs of Belize! When we leave the forest and get out to the island, the diversity of marine life is incredible: Belize has the second largest barrier reef on the planet. Out on the reef, brilliantly colored corals and large schools of fish are common sights. Visit www.savethefrogs.com/trips to learn more about this exciting experience and feel free to contact me for more information at Starkey@savethefrogs.com
Thank you for reading and happy frogging!
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