Archive for May, 2009

Amphibian Research in Bladen Nature Reserve

wildtracks_logo_narrowWe are pleased to report on some fascinating research that has taken place within Bladen Nature Reserve.  A recent trip by Paul Walker of Wildtracks uncovered some very interesting findings about the amphibian species (particularly frog) of Belize’s “crown jewel” of protected areas.

As it turns out, all vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered amphibians in Belize occur within the Maya Mountain Massif, of which Bladen Nature Reserve (BNR) forms part of a core protection zone.

New species?

New species?

The researchers uncovered what could likely be new species of rain forest amphibians.  According to Mr. Walker, the toad shares “features of the rainforest toad, as well as those of the large-crested toad that was recently found in Belize.” Current DNA analysis will determine whether or not the species is new to science.

New tree frog eggs?

New tree frog eggs?

At higher altitudes (~1000 m) along the main divide that forms the northern boundary of BNR the group discovered tree frog eggs which they suspect belong to a species of fringe-limbed tree frog.  If that’s true, “these eggs and the tadpoles that hatched from them will represent the first found for this species,” says Mr. Walker.

On a sadder note however, the group noticed undeniable signs of chytrid fungus, which cause a particularly nasty ailment affecting these species.  The fungus has been found in all other assessments in the Maya Mountain Massif and it is likely BNR has not gone unaffected.  The presence of two cane toads with missing digits all but confirmed this sad presumption.

Chytridiomycota on cane toad

Chytridiomycota on cane toad

This research is part of a nation-wide assessment effort under the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, being implemented by Conservation International.  Research teams visit specific sites to determine the relative abundance and health of amphibian species, as well as assess potential threats to their well being.

Quebrada de Oro-BNR-Final (Medium)The BNR assessment was conducted up the Quebrada de Oro branch of the Bladen River, right up to the Main Divide that forms the backbone of the 1.28 million acres of the Maya Mountains Massif. As the primary investigator, Paul Walker and team members Valentino Tzub, Rafael Tzub and Juan Ischim (all from San Jose, Toledo) conducted the rapid assessment in late January, guided by Dr. Steven Brewer who has conducted extensive botanical research in Bladen for several years. The team was accompanied by Ya’axche Protected Areas Manager, Nathaniel Miller, and two Ya’axche rangers.

For more reading, use the following link to read about how Agrochemical Contamination in Belize’s Maya Mountains [is] a Risk to Amphibians and Humans.

All photo credits: Paul Walker, Wildtracks
Map credit: Ya’axche

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Endangered Species Day – Looking at the Baird’s Tapir

In celebration of Endangered Species Day, we want to introduce you to an endangered species found in our protected areas – the Baird’s Tapir.

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve

Tapir caught on motion-activated camera in the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve (Photo: Ya'axche)

The Baird’s tapir is a large, herbivorous mammal found in the woodlands of Central America.  It is one of three tapir species found in the Americas (there is an additional species found in Malaysia) and the largest land mammal in Central America.

Tapirs have a distinctive prehensile nose which it uses to pick leaves and fruit.  Because of this appendage they appear to be an odd cross between a pig and an elephant, though they are more closely related to horses and rhinoceroses.

Globally they are considered an endangered species, though their status is a little stronger in Belize.  This is because their main threats – habitat destruction and hunting – are more mild in Belize.  With a relatively low human population and about 40% of its landmass under protection, Belize is better equipped than other Central American nations to maintain the large herbivore.  But that’s not to say more can’t be done.  Ongoing threats to the forests of Belize will continue to affect the tapir as agricultural and commercial logging slowly fragment its natural habitat.

A young Baird's tapir

A young Baird's tapir

Most reports of tapir in our protected areas come from rangers who have either heard an animal at night, or seen fresh tracks in the mornings.  Almost exclusively this happens near rivers and streams.

**  Interestingly, a group of tapir is not called a herd, it is called a candle.

(Baby tapir photo creditvia)

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