Breeding of rare Colombian frogs undercuts illegal traffickers

Latin America

Breeding of rare Colombian frogs undercuts illegal traffickers

Colombia is home to more than 700 frog species – boasting one of the greatest varieties in the world.  But, that abundance has attracted animal traffickers.

The rare species are being poached to sell to high-paying collectors.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports on one man’s mission to save the endangered creatures.

Ivan Lozano fights poachers and smugglers without a gun. He is beating them at their own game in the market. By breeding rare frogs legally at the same price or even lower than those illegally taken by smugglers out of the jungle.

“In the case of amphibians, the most trafficked group are venomous frogs, and Colombia is a world leader as it has the largest number of species. And because these frogs are so striking they are constantly trafficked,” Tesoros de Colombia founder Ivan Lozano said.

This sustainable farm located in Colombia is called Tesoros de Colombia or Treasures of Colombia in English. The project gives rare frog collectors from around the world a more eco-friendly alternative to purchase these little critters.

And it seems to have worked. This much-sought species, known popularly as the Golden Dart Frog was priced at $150 a few years ago to just $30 currently.

“We tried to bring down the costs slowly like for our yellow venomous frog, the Phyllobates Terribilis. We have been able to get the price down to a point where it is not attractive to come to the jungle and capture it because it is more costly than to purchase them from Treasures of Colombia,” Lozano said.

The job isn’t easy and it is costly. The research involved to breed these animals in captivity can take years. In fact, he says it took him two decades to breed his first red-banded poison frog.

Lozano has accumulated thousands of dollars of debt to keep the breeding center afloat and secure export permits from the Colombian government.

“We are working towards a greater goal than money and that is the conservation of a species. In the end… we have helped save a species from extinction, and that cannot be compared with all the money in the world, that is much more valuable,” Lozano said.

Treasures of Colombia has licenses to breed seven rare Colombian frogs. He is working with the Colombian government to get permits for another 13 that are being hunted by traffickers. According to a Colombian environmental research group, the Humboldt Institute, 160 amphibian species are critically endangered in the country.