For Immediate Release, October 3, 2012
Contact: Jaclyn Lopez, (727) 490-9190
Rare, Dime-size Puerto Rican Frog Protected Under Endangered Species Act
Threatened by Gas Pipeline, Go-karts and Trash
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it will protect a rare, recently discovered Puerto Rican frog, the coquí llanero, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The protection includes 615 acres of freshwater wetland as critical habitat in northern Puerto Rico. The tiny frog — about 15 millimeters long, the span of a dime — has been waiting for federal protection since 2007. The decision was made in accordance with a landmark settlement agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity requiring the agency to expedite protection decisions for 757 species.
“The wondrous coquí llanero is finally getting the protection it so desperately needs to survive,” said Jaclyn Lopez, an attorney with the Center. “Lifesaving Endangered Species Act protections will help stave off mounting threats to the coquí’s limited habitat.”
Puerto Rican herpetologists first discovered the coquí llanero in 2005. Recognizing the imminent threats to the coquí’s habitat, the Caribbean Primate Research Center petitioned the Service to list the frog in May 2007. The Center sued in 2010 to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to that petition.
“The coqui is extremely isolated and depends on a delicately balanced wetland, so critical habitat protection is essential to its survival,” said Lopez. “Despite its relative rarity, the coquí’s presence in this wetland is significant. It indicates a healthy wetland that helps a variety of species survive, gives protection against flooding and recharges groundwater.”
The coquí llanero is one of 16 coquí found only in Puerto Rico. The common coquí, whose name comes from the male frog’s iconic singing-call “ko-kee,” is a cultural symbol of Puerto Rico. The coquí llanero’s limited range is likely the result of historical and current land uses — including urban development, a go-kart track and a landfill.
The designated critical habitat is made up of freshwater wetlands in Sebana Seca, Toa Baja, that are currently threatened by multiple development projects. A new and very severe threat to the coquí is an ill-conceived, 92-mile-long liquefied natural gas pipeline, misleadingly called Via Verde (“green way”). The construction, operation and maintenance of the pipeline may affect the natural drainage body of the wetland.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.