Jeff Parsons reports for Metro:
In a time when it seems like most species are under some form of threat, spare a thought for the scrotum frog of South America.
Found in Lake Titicaca on the border between Bolivia and Peru, this slimy, wrinkled little amphibian is on the edge of being wiped out.
Covered in folds of skin that make it look like, well, a scrotum, the Telmatobius culeus is in fact the world’s largest fully aquatic frog. It lives all of its life in water and experts believe its numbers have dropped by 80% in the decade from 1994 to 2004. It’s currently not known how many still exist.
In fact, an estimated 10,000 scrotum frogs were killed by an unexplained event back in 2016. Scientists aren’t sure what happened but one theory is that sewage runoff destroyed their habitat to such an extent the frogs couldn’t survive.
Which is why the governments of Bolivia and Peru have joined together to launch a coordinated effort to save the frogs. Lake Titicaca covers over 3,200 square miles between the two countries so it will take a vast effort to survey and document populations and understand what environmental elements are affecting them.
‘In a coordinated effort, the governments of Bolivia and Peru, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (United Nations Development Programme) and the financing of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), have formed a cross-border team for conservation and knowledge of the emblematic Titicaca Giant Rana with the vision that the species will have a long-term future,’ explained the Bolivia Natural History Museum on Facebook.
Saving the frogs has larger significance as they’re what’s called an ‘indicator species’. By understanding the health of the scrotum frog population, authorities can understand the health of the ecosystem of Lake Titicaca as a whole.