Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Starry Night Harlequin Toad (Atelopus aryescue)

Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Starry Night Toad Found After Decades of Supposed Extinction

By: Leah Weber

A Harlequin Toad that was lost to science for nearly three decades has emerged from the jungle.

January 29, 2020

Across the world, animals of all kinds have battled the rough reality of changing habitats-- from human encroachment to diseases to climate change, it is a tough world out there. The Starry Night Harlequin Toad was lost to science, but in a heroic story of teamwork we are seeing the re-awakening of a species with both ecological and spiritual significance.

In the Colombian jungle, atop the highest coastal peak in the world, the Global Wildlife Foundation along with the amphibian conservation NGO, Fundación Atelopus, connected with the indigenous Arhuaco people to find this beautiful creature that has been lost to science for nearly 30 years. It was once thought that this species was wiped out by a fungal pathogen, but luck would have it that this critically endangered toad escaped that fate due to the protection of the land in which they inhabit.

Starry Night Harlequin Toad (Atelopus aryescue)

Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Starry Night Harlequin Toad (Atelopus aryescue)

Photo courtesy of Fundación Atelopus

Known as ‘gouna’ by the Arhuaco people in the Sogrome community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the starry night toad is a culturally significant symbol. The only way access was granted to the GWF and team was their patience and respect for tradition.

“It is an incredible honor to be entrusted with the story of the starry night harlequin toad and the story of the Sogrome community’s relationship with it,” said Fundación Atelopus vice president and biologist José Luis Pérez-González. “We were hoping to find one individual of the starry night harlequin toad, and to our great surprise we found a population of 30 individuals. We were full of joy and hope as we had the chance to observe a healthy population from a genus for which very few species remain.”

We are grateful to the Arhuaco people and many like them all over the world that provide true protection to creatures once thought to be lost.

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