Biologists are working with the inhabitants of this island to educate people on the characteristics of these frogs and bring awareness to the importance of their protection, in addition to promoting ecotourism.
The 25 families inhabiting the Isla de la Luna on the Bolivian side of Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, want to turn their home into a sanctuary to conserve a giant frog endemic to their waters and under critical threat of endangerment.
The giant frog of Lake Titicaca, "Telmatobius culeus," is "critically endangered" and is on the list of endangered species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2004. While the frogs used to measure from 18 to 20 centimeters, they now are found to be an average of around 10 to 12.
With the support of the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative, the project can be made a reality. Biologists are working with the inhabitants of this island to educate people on the characteristics of the frogs and bring awareness to the importance of their protection, in addition to promoting ecotourism.
For the 85 inhabitants of the Isla de la Luna, also known as the Island of Coati, which is accessible within an hour by boat from the Copacabana coast, the giant frogs are "sacred," so they want to cooperate in their conservation by offering the island as a sanctuary for them.
The bizarre Titicaca water frog has excessive amounts of skin to help it respire at high altitude. pic.twitter.com/40YQ5l96CQ— A Book of Rather Strange Animals OUT NOW!!! (@StrangeAnimaIs) July 1, 2018
"We want to take care of the frogs. For that reason, we want this place to be declared a sanctuary so they can be cared for and not hunted," Porfirio Mamani, the Sullka Mallku (the island's original authority), said.
The villager commented that for the community, like many who reside near the shores of Lake Titicaca, frogs are important because they "attract the rain" that is essential for their crops of beans, potatoes, and corn.
Even when there is not enough water for their crops, the inhabitants perform a ritual with native music and dances to "sing" to a few frogs to attract rain to the island, Mamani explained.
In addition, the presence of these amphibians near the banks indicates to the locals that there are many ispis, a small fish, which is widely consumed in the region and remains as a fundamental part of the economy of the community.
"For all of these reasons the frogs are sacred to us and we respect them", Mamani said.
Some of the factors that threaten the frogs are water contamination and hunting. The amphibians are served in restaurants or in aphrodisiac juices that are sold, especially in Peru, biologist Patricia Mendoza said.
Mendoza has been working with the locals on the island since 2011 when the sanctuary project started.
"They have raised the idea of the sanctuary (the villagers) and this area, out of all those that have been surveyed, is one of the most well-preserved areas," the biologist added.