News Release

Fighting for forest frogs

26 April 2009
Philautus poppiae (Photo: © Madhava Meegaskumbura)

The Philautus poppiae frog is native to Sri Lanka and lives in closed canopy cloud forest. It is classified as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ due to the ongoing decline in the quality and extent of its forest habitat.

Nineteen species of frogs native to Sri Lanka have gone extinct due to continuing habitat loss essentially caused by smallholder farming activities and logging. Drought and the use of agrochemicals in cardamom cultivation are additional threats. No other country in the world has more documented amphibian extinctions. Therefore, it is an urgent priority to protect the remaining forests in Sri Lanka to prevent further losses of species.

The IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group identified a 1,000-hectare cloud forest called Morningside as a top priority because a total of 11 globally Threatened amphibians, three endemic lizards, and three species of endemic freshwater crabs are native to this threatened forest. The Morningside Cloud Forest, where Conservation International has now been working for the past five years, is located in southeast Sri Lanka just east of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site.

The IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and local partners, including Conservation International, the Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka, IUCN Sri Lanka, and the Forest Department of Sri Lanka convinced the government of Sri Lanka to designate all 1,000 hectares of the Morningside Cloud Forest as a Forest Reserve for Biodiversity Conservation, which ensures its protection in perpetuity.

The IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group and local partners are now developing and implementing a management plan to enable reserve staff to effectively protect threatened species within Morningside.

Concerned about the local economy for people in the region around Morningside, IUCN and Conservation International staff are developing and implementing a management plan that targets the sustainable harvest of cardamom within portions of the Morningside Cloud Forest. Cardamom plants, which do not tolerate direct sunlight, are currently grown in the understory of the forest, where the cloud forest trees provide necessary shade. However, the cardamom is being grown in a way that is not only incompatible with maintaining a tree canopy, but is also potentially harming threatened frog species in other ways.

Because both cardamom plants and threatened species benefit from a healthy cloud forest habitat, there is great potential for developing cardamom farming in a way that is compatible with biodiversity conservation. The management plan will focus on how to cultivate cardamom efficiently, providing revenue to the local community without negatively impacting cloud forest trees and the threatened species that inhabit the forest.

In addition, the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group are working with IUCN Sri Lanka to incorporate the Morningside Cloud Forest Reserve within the Sinharaja World Heritage Site, which will help ensure the long-term allocation of funds to protect and manage the species unique to Morningside.

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