New Study underway to examine Coquí Guajón parasites, disease, habitat and genetic connectivity.
The coquí guajón (Eleutherodactylus cooki) is a threatened frog, protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1997, found mostly in caves formed by large granite boulders within streams in the southeastern region of Puerto Rico.
On November 23, 2007 the USFWS designated critical habitat specifying within the species range the areas with biological or physical features essential to the conservation of the species. Because all of the coquí guajón critical habitats are fragmented and confined to private lands, we need to understand how this species responds to threats caused by deforestation and earth movement for agricultural activities, rural development, road construction, and disease.
To evaluate threats to habitat and other factors contributing to the Coquí Guajón status, the USFWS CESFO teamed up with Projecto Coquí to conduct a study.
Projecto Coquí will be collaborating with scientists from Cornell University, the University of Puerto Rico, and the Universidade do Porto, in Portugal. Researchers from these institutions will work together to 1) determine the impacts of the chytrid fungus and parasitic tick Ornithodoros talaje, (2) assess the genetic diversity and patterns of gene flow between localities, (3) monitor the population status performing demographic studies, and (4) develop an outreach program to promote species awareness and to improve habitat quality. Through this collaborative effort, the USFWS is implementing recovery action outlined in the species recovery plan (USFWS 2004) and the findings will help the USFWS incorporate landscape level conservation measures for the species.
The research will focus on studying guajón populations at the 17 areas USFWS designated as critical habitats and 4 new localities discovered in 2008. Once the study is finalized, the findings will be disseminated among landowners within designated critical habitat areas through an educational campaign that will be designed to build awareness and support for the coquí guajón conservation. Public involvement is vital for the successful recovery of the coquí guajón, because the species extremely restricted geographical distribution falls exclusively within privately-owned lands.