Lake Junin Frog (Batrachophrynus macrostomus)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0905182

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 0905182) - Lake Junin Frog - Awarded $4,900 on November 03, 2009

Human’s impact on the population of Lake Junín Frog  (Batrachophrynus macrostomus)

                                             Mg.Sc.MV. Patricia Ríos Mejia

                                              

                                                       INTRODUCTION 

According to the IUCN red list (2007), amphibians are considered the most threatened order of animals in the world. General concern on amphibian’s present situation is not only based on the alarming decline of the number of its species but the lack of information about its current situation in many countries (Young, 2004). It is well known that there are a lot of human behaviours which can affect directly an animal population including amphibians. The harvesting of adults frogs for instance, is a typical custom which has been taking place in many countries, but seems to have risen to the level of depredation in the inner population of some Latin American countries (Beebe, 1996; Tovar, 2005; Young et al, 2004). Two studies carried out by Tovar – Narvaez (2005) and Tueros (2006) regarding the custom of eating frogs in Peru, provide an apparent correlation between consumption and the decline in the number of Lake Junin’s frog population. However, neither study clarifies the seriousness of the impact of harvesting on this population. What is more, no one has provided useful data in order to measure the effects of the lakes Junin’s multi species depredation and/or other human activities taking place in this lake.  This lack of information regarding the threats to Lake Junín’s frog (or any other species living in that lake), makes difficult the establishment of conservational strategies for the species. The present study was proposed to find out the social factors which trigger the human behaviour of frog’s harvesting and to find out the other possible factor which could have contributed with its actual endangered condition. Also, this work will contribute with recommendations for future strategies to conserve the species.  

                                                    BACKGROUND 

About the subject of study B. macrostomus, commonly know as Junin´s frog is one of the most endangered species of amphibians in the world. It is only found in Junín Lake (4080 masl), and other peripheral lagoons. The Agricultural Ministry of Peru has considered this species as Critically Endangered (El Peruano, 2004); while the IUCN´s red book (2008) has published them as Endangered. The National Reserve of Junin is located in the central highlands of Peru.  It extends over the districts of Carhuamayo, Ondores and Junin in the region of Junin and the districts of Vicco and Ninacaca in the region of Pasco. The total surface of the reserve is 53000 ha, where the Lake of Junin covers most of the 85% of this extension. Lulicocha, Chacacancha, Tauli, Cusicocha, Ahascocha and Rusquicocha are six of the other small lagoons which are located inside the reserve and surround the Lake of Junín.  People have been living around Lake Junín since records began. Currently there have been censed 6059 residents living near the lake (INEI 2007). These inhabitants are considered as local rural population and they are allowed to live in the lands inside the protected reserve but under governmental regulations.  

Table 1: Local rural population living in the neighbourhood of Lake Junin ( INEI, 2007)

 District Age rateSex rateJunin175040-445.7%Male47.5%Carhuamayo91045-495.1%Female52.5%Ondores71250-597.4%  Vicco62460-696.1%  Ninacaca206370-794.2%    80- more1.5%  

This population is constituted by small farmers (potato and maca collectors), stockbreeders (Sheep and South American camelids breeders) and a few mine workers, with low educational and economic levels (INEI, 2007). The average of illiteracy is 12.2% and the average of years when people assist to school is 6.48 years.  

Housing Most of the population live inside small houses with no more than two rooms and a latrine located out side the main building. Most of the houses are made of grey stones and sand; besides they are covered by zinc-made sheets which act like a roof. Almost seventy three percent (72.8%) of the population can accede to light power service; while only 5% in average has potable water system inside their home. Only two out of five districts count with the basic drain system. It is important to remark that all people living in the lands which surround the lake have not legal right over the lands as the Peruvian government is the only owner of the reserve.   

Economical activities performed in the region 

Mine activities There are three mining companies working near the reserve: “Volcan Mine Company s.a”, “Aurex mine company s.a” and “El Brocal mine society”. Gold, silver, lead and zinc are the main products exploited in these companies and all of them use the water of the rivers to eject their wastes.  

Hydro electrical plant activities Upamayo hydroelectric dam was built almost 40 years ago in order to provide the light power resources to several regions in Peru. Actually, most of the electrical power which is supplied in Peru arrives from this hydroelectric dam.  

Other economical activities in the zone Fishing, hunting and harvesting inside the Lake of Junín were considered for years as the main economical activities of the region. However, it has been reduced to its lowest level during the past ten years. At present, it still can be seen in an informal way and the main products which are still collected from the Lake are some eggs and adults of “huachua” and “ayno” or wild guinea pigs. Also it has been reported the hunt of some immigrating ducks which could came to the lake during the raining season. The harvesting of the Lake of Junín frog was forbidden for commercial purposes since 2005, while the harvesting for auto consume is still allowed (less than 11 individuals per species per week). The principal zones of harvesting are Santa Clara de Chuyroc, Huayre, Ondores and Paccha. Each community have a local committee which is supposed to coordinate all the harvesting events but it has been recognised that the committees are highly inefficient or useless (Plan Maestro, 2008) There are just two agencies of tourist in Junín. Even when the roads are modern and the beauty of the landscape is impressive, there have not been enough initiatives concerning this activity in the whole region.      

Principal problems associated with the Junín Lake. 

  1. Mine related problems. The effects of water pollution caused by the ejection of mine sub products into the lake has been evident since years ago, specially in the north side of the lake where the local flora and fauna has almost disappeared. In 1978, there were censed 368 species of animals and 98 species of plant in the lake (Doviojeanni, 1978). At present, there have been reported 175 species of animals and 26 species of plants in the lake. Copper, zinc and lead have been reported as the main micro elements of pollution and probably one of the main causes of death for amphibians, fishes and birds in the lake.

  

Table 2. List of microelements analysed in the water of Lake of Junín during

2003 – 2007 by the Peruvian governmentYearMicro element analysedResults2003  Lead, zinc, cadmium, mercury, ferrousNo presence of microelements2004Lead2005Lead2006No presence of microelement2007Lead

   

  1. Dam related problems. It has been reported alterations in the lake’s ecosystem mainly induced by the presence of the dam on the region. Some reports has identified nest flooding and lost of agricultural zones as a consequence of the presence of this dam in the region.
  2. Drainage related problems. At present there is not any center or facility of treatment for drainages in Junin or Carhuamayo.
  3. Vulnerability against climate change. Reduction of the level of rains in the zone has demanded the establishment of chemical methods to induce rains.

  About the Studies of human motivation:    

Studies of human motivation have involved the use of quantitative and qualitative data collecting techniques (Bernard, 2006):  

The Quantitative method: Mainly represented by censuses or questionnaires, which provide an inventory or figure of the situation as a mark for future investigations (Casley, 1981). The value of information from a census is enhanced if it becomes part of a programme of censuses at regular intervals. There are certain disadvantages in using questionnaires. When problems are complex, questionnaires may not provide the full picture. In these instances it is best to enrich their results with qualitative methods in order to collect sufficient information to analyse the problem in question (Kumar, 2002).    

The Qualitative method: Represented by Participatory Rural Appraisal methods (PRA methods). PRA is a growing successful body of methods which primarily uses unstructured or participatory interviews to enable local people to share, enhance and analyse their knowledge of life. These techniques have the virtue of promoting the self critical awareness of one’s behaviour and short comings. They also allow people to enjoy their participation, not being interrupted by or lectured by the researcher (Kumar, 2002). Until the moment, the only studies made on human impact in Peru have been based on quantitative method, with no functional results.    

 

                                                      METHODOLOGY: 

  1. Interviews were made in situ and by two different interviewers. In order to avoid the biases or misunderstandings, both interviewers were trained and a voice recorder was used in each interview.

  1. Selection of informant.

 Specialized informants included local representatives of the government, professionals of health and leaders of the sector (n=10). Key informants include target-age group of adults between 40 to 80 years (as younger people were not able to answer about historical changes in Lake Junín). This group of informants were constituted by 80% men (hunters, local collectors traders) and 20% women (food sellers and cookers) (n=29). One condition to be chosen as a key informant was that this person must have had as principal income any activity related to the Junín frog during at least 10 years of his/her life.     A total of 39 interviews with an average of 40 minutes per each one, were conducted (6 % of the target-aged group) (INEA, 2008).  

  1. Interviews.

Developed in two different ways in order to collect the information required: 

  1. The trend analysis, used to explore dimensions with a focus on change. It is people’s account of the past and how things have changed and hence provided an historical perspective of the Lake’s exploitation and for that the frog’s exploitation. The steps consisted on the following steps:

 1.      It was initiated a discussion regarding actual themes. We asked in general about the following topics recurring to brainstorm to develop the ideas: 

o       Governmental participation in the zone.

o       Lake Junín, past and present situation

o       How much could the informant remember about the Junín frog during his/her life 

2.      If by any chance, the informant was not allowed to give us enough information about the frog, then the interviewer was able to bring particular subjects into the conversation. On this respect, themes like the clearness of the lake, the size and variety of frogs, its biology and principal components of its ecology were introduced inside the conversation.  

  1. The Cause - Effect Diagram. Focuses on the causal factors of a phenomenon, activity or problem and the effects thereafter. So, it was used in order to find out the human perception of the Junín’s frog problem. The steps followed were the following:  

  •  
    1. After a small break, the informant was introduced into the specific problem of the Junin’s frog.
    2. Regulars topics of conversation where based on people’s perception about the causes of the decline in the population of the frog and possible solutions. As they come up with the causes, it was noted down. Then go over to the effects.
    3. Once finished the interview, the list of cause effects was read in order to discuss more about each subject.

 All information recollected was used to fill Table 3.  

                                RESULTS AND PREVIOUS CONCLUTIONS: 

First phase:  About the frog harvesting: Based on the interpretation of the interviews; fishing, hunting and harvesting inside the Lake of Junín were considered for years as the main economical activities of the region. An average hunter of the zone reported to have been worked 4 hours a day, six out of seven days in a week. During 1970 and 1980 there were censed 108 hunters working inside the lake and tables 4 shows the level of daily reported frog depredation in the zone which occurred at least during 15 consecutives years. 

Table 4:Frecuency of frogs taken during a day Dozens per dayFrequencysub totals0.510.5 110102362.512.531352107214818  54  2.6 (*)

 (*) In average, hunters reported to have taken 2.6 dozens of frogs a day (31 frog a day) during the best 15 years of the lake harvesting (1970 and 1985), when the market was in the best demanding phase.     

Table 5: Average of price for sell of the frogSol per frogFrequency 0.421.000.420.502.001.000.591.000.591.006.006.001.171.001.172.083.006.242.921.002.924.171.004.17  22.51  1.41

 Table 5 summarize the average of price for sell of the frog during its best commercial phase. Notice that the average price of the frog was cheaper than any other animal origin’s meat supplement (1.41 soles = 0.48 dollars) and so it might have increase the demand of the frogs to the depredations levels. At present, fishing, hunting and harvesting has been reduced to its lowest level. Frog’s harvesting can still be seen in an informal way but in general it is not a promoted activity between the locals anymore.  Figures 1 and 2 show the main economical activities of the informants at present. In order to make the present study, we have to travel a lot between the five different districts surrounding the lake to find the ex hunters of the regions as most of them have immigrated to different places of the region to find another way of living.      Figure 3 depicts the last time a frog was taken for the interviewed hunters and gave us an idea of the places where the frog has disappeared.  About the other reported factors affecting the frog Once our research started and during the field visits, it was more than clear that the target species was badly threatened for other two factors which at the beginning were not considered on its magnitude of importance.  Habitat degradation because of water pollution and artificial rains (chemically induced rains) are factors which were considered just as secondary ones because of the reports delivered by a governmental institution concerning the quality of the lake's water. However, based on the interviews, we requested the help of the Biomedical Science's department from The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, where after an evaluation of the water and subtracts of the Lake, it was state that the quality of the samples differs highly from the official reports and that the level of contamination was over any consideration. This factor will have to be deeply evaluated in order to find a suitable conservation program to work here. Based on the results, implement an educational program in order to avoid harvesting could not be the best solution to the multifactor problem of the Lake Junín frog. We needed to complement our study with a laboratory research in order to get the true from the information obtained during the interviews. Official governmental reports notify moderate level of contamination with lead in the water of the Lake of Junín. However, results from water and sediments taken in order to complement our study reported extremely high levels of lead, zinc, cadmium and mercury. According to our study this water is highly toxic and would not be an adequate habitat for the amphibians or any other water dependant species.  In this new context, at least one more factor (pollution and habitat restoration) might be evaluated during the second phase of this research in order to plan, implement and evaluate a specific, measurable, audience focused and relevant conservation program with this species.   About reported solutions: Local government of Junín implemented a zoocriadero as a solution of conservation for the Lake Junín frog four years ago. However, in general the zoocriadero is not well known in the region and general consideration of the people working there is not the best.  Table 6 summarize how many people living and not living near the zoocriadero know about the project.    

Table 6. Knows about the zoocriadero YesnoLives inside the surrounding area107Lives in other district814

      

 



Project 0905182 location - Peru, South America