| Ramiro Carrillo |
Quito (dpa) – A company in Ecuador has hit on the business of selling bizarrely colourful frogs from the Latin American nation’s tropical jungles as pets. Over the past three years it has exported
some 2,000 of the creatures to owners abroad.
The Wikiri firm insists its main two goals are to raise funds for environmental research and to raise consciousness among buyers, who have so far been found in countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States.
Maria Dolores Guarderas, a Wikiri executive, said in an interview with dpa that the frogs are not simply “collected in forests and sold”.
The amphibians are bred in terrariums. Only frogs that belong to the third generation after capture can be used for commercial purposes.
Those frogs are given a special “F2” label and “are the only ones that can be bought and sold under Ecuadorean legislation”, said Guarderas. Revenue from the sales is invested in amphibian research at the Jambatu Centre which Wikiri supports.
The centre has established several laboratories where five species of frogs that are not in danger of extinction are induced to reproduce.
One of Wikiri’s other ideas is to re-introduce into the country’s own gardens the kinds of frogs which used to be found in the patios and backyards of homes in Quito and other main Ecuadorean cities and which seemed to be easily at home with human beings.
According to researcher Luis Coloma, there are 528 known frog species in Ecuador.
The Jambatu Centre has studied 40 of those species, setting aside five for trade.
Before being exported, the frogs are placed in individual containers with materials to preserve humidity and ensure that the animal is in optimum condition when it reaches its destination half a world away by air-mail.
In the three years since it began operating, Wikiri has invoiced sales for up to half a million dollars under its EcuaFrog brand.
“Through the people that take these frogs – this little bit of forest – into their homes, we want to strengthen the identity of Ecuador as a biologically very diverse country,” says Guarderas.
The five frog species offered for sale as pets are all native to Ecuador. They are the Pacific horned frog; the Andean marsupial frog, the “Little Devil” frog, the Choco monkey frog and the Chahi frog.
But not everybody is happy about selling frogs as pets, or the frog “bio-trade” as Wikiri calls it.
Miguel Jacome, manager at the terrarium manufacturer Valhalla Fish, told dpa that it was not advisable to sell amphibians as pets “since in Ecuador 90 per cent of them are in danger of extinction.”
Ecuador is the country with the greatest biodiversity in South America. Scientists estimate that one million animal species have made their home in Ecuador and only 35,000 have been studied.