Project Aims to Stop the Trafficking of Dart Frogs in Colombia

May 28, 2020

A Harlequin poison dart frog with red and black colors. Credit: René  Stalder / Creative Commons
The Harlequin poison dart frog is only found in Colombia, the second most biodiverse country for amphibians in the world.
Credit: René Stalder  / Creative Commons

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many of our partners are celebrating the first annual Amphibian Week this year from June 1-7.  For this reason, we want to highlight a recent project that is receiving support through the Service’s International Combating Wildlife Trafficking and Western Hemisphere Programs.

In Colombia, there are 827 known species of amphibians, making it the second most biodiverse country in the world for amphibians. Some of these species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as unregulated trade in these animals may threaten them with extinction.

Dart frogs are highly targeted in the illegal wildlife trade for use as pets because of their striking colors. Their toxins are also valued as potential pharmaceutical components. In Colombia, community support, surveillance capacity, and data are lacking to understand and control the illegal trade in dart frogs.

To address this gap in knowledge, the Service has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society to counter international trafficking of threatened amphibians from Colombia. Together we are addressing this critical conservation issue that otherwise may be less noticed, particularly as the frogs are smuggled relatively easily due to their small size. Some of the project's specific goals are to build capacity among local authorities to identify amphibians and use technology to detect them in airports. They will also begin to establish databases and protocols to document seizures. The Wildlife Conservation Society also seeks to strengthen community action and support for frog conservation by providing more information to people living near the frogs about why these frogs are important and by explaining the legal protections already in place that exist to protect them.

Although trafficking of dart frogs continues, this project is helping to address the threat by assisting Colombia with actions that will more effectively protect these fascinating and colorful frogs.