The herpetological fauna of Panama can be considered as one of the most bio-diverse in Central America. Recently, new species of amphibians and reptiles has been discovered in an area known as “Serranía de Tabasará” located at the central mountain range or Coordillera central. This area holds an extremely high biodiversity of animals, including amphibians and reptiles. Recent studies have resulted in the discovery of new species, critically endangered or with restricted distribution in Panama. Given the fact that all of these studies have focused inside Santa Fe and in a limited portion of its extension, there is an urgent need to expand the research area including the buffer zone, where local residents make their lives.
Status of Harlequin frogs in Panama
In Panama, there are reported a total of 214 amphibians (Frost 2013), among them the Harlequin frog (Atelopus varius).
A. varius is considered as critically endangered and has been listed at risk of extinction in Panama by means of resolution AG.
0051-2008 (ANAM 2008), due to drastic declines in their distribution range by the Chitridiomycosis infection caused by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). This fungus causes a serious damage to the epidermis, affecting osmoregulation and gases exchange of the skin. A. varius has been almost extirpated from Costa Rica and in Panama some populations have declined while others persist. In Panama the first reports of massive declines of A. varius came from Fortuna Forest reserve between 1996 and 1997. In the year 2002, 16 Atelopus varius were reported death apparently infected with Bd in the SFNP, this was the first report in this area.
The World Plan for the conservation of amphibians highlights the need to conduct research in populations of amphibians that are critically endangered, especially in those populations that persist even though Chitridiomycosis is present (IUCN 2006). Thus the National Plan for the Conservation of amphibians of Panama (ANAM 2011) stresses the need to do conservation research and environmental education in species like A. varius (ANAM 2011).