Updated 6 months, 1 week ago

Pollution might have caused the death of 10,000 endangered frogs in Peru

Environmental activists brought attention into the deaths of Titicaca water frogs in the Coata River, a tributary of Lake Titicaca in Peru as they laid 100 of the dead frogs in the central plaza of Puno, a city in the southeast of the country.

Since Monday Peru's Forestry Service (Serfor) is investigating the incident and released a statement saying that up to 10,000 frogs may have been killed in a 30 mile area of the river. This species is endemic to the lake and listed by the IUCN as critically endangered.

These are the world's largest aquatic frogs, weighting up to two ponds and are commonly named as "scrotum" frogs because of their wrinkly skin. It increases its surface area so that the frogs can absorb more oxygen.

Pollution is believed to have caused this catastrophe. Previous studies had shown high levels of heavy metals in the lake, caused by mining both legal and illegal in surrounding rivers. Roberto Elías, Peru program manager for the US Denver Zoo, has been studying this species since 2010 and told The Guardian only toxins "could have caused such a high mortality so quickly."

Activist Maruja Inquilla who brought some of the frogs to Puno told AFP, "I’ve had to bring them the dead frogs. The authorities don’t realize how we’re living. They have no idea how major the pollution is. The situation is maddening.”

“Lake Titicaca used to be a paradise, now we can’t use the water and our livestock die if they drink it,” she told The Guardian. Inquilla is the vice president of a local committee against the contamination of Coata river.“ Untreated sewage is being pumped into the lake from the big towns and the authorities don’t care,” she complained.

But pollution is not the only threat for the frogs. They are also hunted and eaten in regional dishes or are victims of illegal wildlife traffic because they are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.  According to the IUCN their population has declined by more than 80% in the last three generations, due to over-exploitation, habitat degradation and invasive species like trout.