Threatened tree frog survives well on the Água Limpa Farm in Brasília

The rain had stopped when Reuber Albuquerque Brandão, 49, arrives at 15h27, following the report of Folha, to Fazenda Água Clean. A maned wolf crosses in front of the van led by the herpetologist, but the vertebrate we are looking for is much smaller.

The 4.500 hectares (4.5 km2) of the experimental area of ​​the University of Brasília (UnB), a few kilometers from the Plano Piloto, teeming with wildlife. In the highest part, the water runs through cracks in the ground forming small streams; it only takes one step to cross them.

The croaking is intense, and Brandão begins to enumerate the singers: Dendropsophus minutus, yellow tree frog with an acute trill; Physalemus cuvieri2019, dog frog, which barks as such; Boana buriti, pajama tree frog, named for the stripes that cut the body from end to end.

Hearing is one thing, seeing is another. The first reptile sighted after sunset is not a batrachian, but a little snake: Chironius brazili, two palms of silent green resting curled up on the leaves of a bush in the cerrado.

A few more minutes of searching and finally the vocalizing star of the night appears: Pithecopus oreades , or oreadica tree frog, described in 2002 by Brandão. The scientific name of the genus (from the Greek “pithekos”, monkey) alludes to the simian style of slow locomotion between branches, without jumping.

When stretching limbs to walk from leaf to leaf, the P. oreades (whose second name refers to the Greek mountain nymphs) reveals a striking pattern of red reticulated on black. The colored secret is hidden between folds of the predominant green of the body when it shrinks.

The tree frog depends on crystalline streams to reproduce. Female and male nests with curled leaves over small wells in streams, from which tadpole eggs drip onto calmer water where they will develop limbs and lose their tails.

Because of this dependence of water with a temperature of 21ºC to 21ºC, the tree frog serves as an indicator of the quality of the waters that originate in the high areas of the cerrado, about % of the biome that feeds a large part of the country’s rivers and hydroelectric plants. If it disappears, it is a sign that water resources are not doing well.

Brandão was contacted by the Partnership Fund for Critical Ecosystems (CEPF) to study the conservation of P. ayeaye, cousin of the tree frog that lives in Serra da Canastra (MG) and is critically endangered, according to the Red List of Threatened Species.

He then suggested that the project cover three other related species, including P. oreades, which could monitor half an hour’s drive from UnB. The Conservation of Pithecopus ayeaye, Related Species and Their Ecosystems project was born, financed with US$ 46 thousand (BRL 68 thousand) by CEPF in the period 2019-27.

Brandão’s team visited 68 localities of occurrence in mountains and mountains, almost always fragile areas of cerrado, threatened by deforestation and urban expansion. Population distribution models indicated priority areas for conservation.

Based on this, the next step is to seek to convince landowners to create private natural heritage reserves (RPPNs) in Goiás and Minas Gerais. As long as they can hear the croak of the Pithecopus, human beings will be able to count on good, clean water—even in the vicinity of the noisy federal capital.

Journalists Lalo de Almeida and Marcelo Leite traveled at the invitation of the International Institute of Education of Brazil (IEB) and the Partnership Fund for Critical Ecosystems (CEPF)

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