Photo: Helmeted water toad
Chile’s helmeted water toad, a unique species in the world and the largest amphibian in that South American country, is in serious danger of extinction due to habitat loss and other factors, experts told Efe.
“The Chilean map of species extinction” provides graphic proof of the bleak situation of this frog, which lives in isolated groups over an area stretching from Coquimbo, 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of Santiago, to Puerto Montt, 1,000 kilometers south of the capital.
One of the problems affecting this species, which grows to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) in length and one kilo (2.2 pounds) in weight as an adult, is that its habitat overlaps with that of Chile’s most populated regions.
“The frog’s large size and the succulent taste of its meat make it especially vulnerable to human consumption,” Dr. Marcela Vidal, a researcher at the University of Bio-Bio’s Genomics and Biodiversity Laboratory, said in a document provided to Efe.
Even though the helmeted water toad, also known as the Chilean giant frog, was recently added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s Appendix III, it continues to be consumed “due to demand in the hotel and catering” sector, the expert said.
The problem arises because culinary demand grows in the spring and summer (September to March), coinciding with the species’ reproductive period when it is most vulnerable, thus posing an existential threat to the amphibian.
Cristian Romero, manager of environmental projects at CSW Consultores Ambientales, an environmental consulting firm, said water pollution, habitat fragmentation ... and the arrival of invasive species” also endanger the helmeted water toad’s survival.