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Panama Wildlife Conservation

Over the past week or so it has been my great pleasure to spend time with my wildlife conservation-orientated colleagues in Panama, particularly Dr Luis Urena and Dr Eric Flores. During this time we signed the official collaborative agreement to facilitate the University of Manchester and the University of Panama working together in developing important academic links.

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Atelopus certus (c) Andrew Gray. Kind courtesy of the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Centre.

This will support international student learning, as well as facilitate important wildlife conservation collaboration. It was an honour to meet the President of the University (pictured) and the Ambassador of Panama. It was also wonderful to witness the excellent captive work being carried out at the Gamboa Amphibian Research and Conservation Centre, where we were introduced to some amazing species of Harlequin Toad (Atelopus) by highly committed Gina Della Togna, who I would sincerely like to thank.

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Searching for frogs has become a big part of my life, since my early childhood where I spent days in and around my local park’s pond. However, the frogs searched for nowadays are somewhat rarer. Here I find myself deep in the humid primary forest of the Santa Fe National Park, Panama. For the past few days myself and colleagues from Panama Wildlife Conservation, have been looking for the critically endangered Harlequin Frog, Atelopus varius.

We have been granted special permission to work with the species, assess the population, and the unusual habitat it frequents, in an effort to collaboratively support this colourful amphibians’ conservation.

Harlequin Frog, Atelopus varius (c) Andrew Gray

The species lives in flowing watercourses through the jungle, preferring to frequent the sides of powerful waterfalls and the moss covered rocks of fast-flowing streams rather than the surrounding primary forest. This makes for treacherous work, which is proving really hard going, but seeing these animals in the wild is simply heaven!

The fieldwork is just one aspect of the project, which also includes environmental education with the local community and an ex-situ component at Manchester Museum.

The Atelopus fieldwork is particularly gruelling, but highly rewarding: searching for these Harlequins in the wild is truly magical, if not totally draining, as we spend several days negotiating slippery moss-covered boulders in fast flowing rivers, treacherous waterfalls, and dense, wet, tropical habitats these brightly coloured amphibians love to frequent.

Supporting the monitoring of Atelopus in the wild, and the collection of environmental data, is an important aspect of our collaborative project with PWCC in supporting these Critically Endangered amphibians.

More on what we find during our intense Harlequin Frog fieldwork coming soon!!!

FIND OUT HOW YOU COULD HELP SUPPORT PANAMA WILDLIFE AND FOR A £30 DONATION GET THE CHANCE TO WIN A PHOTOSHOOT WORTH 7K BY THE ROYAL PHOTOGRAPHER

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