Scientists team up to save endangered 'scrotum frog'

Known by the scientific name Telmatoius culeus and as the Titicaca water frog, it also has the nickname of "scrotum frog."

Telmatobius culeus, also known as the Titicaca water frog and the "scrotum frog." (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Telmatobius culeus, also known as the Titicaca water frog and the "scrotum frog."
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Scientists are teaming up to help save the "scrotum frog," an endangered species of frog native to South America, CNN reported.
Known by the scientific name Telmatoius culeus as well as the more commonly used Titicaca water frog, the frogs grow up to 20 centimeters, making them the world's largest entirely aquatic frog.
Their nickname is derived from how the loose skin on its body makes it resemble a human scrotum. Its unique appearance has been commemorated in a 1 sol coin issued by Peru in 2019, and saw it as one of the top contenders for ugliest animal in a 2013 vote by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which seeks to draw attention to endangered species that do not have the advantage of being cute. However, it lost the vote that year to the blobfish.
They also have value as an indicator species, which is a term for species that can be used as an indicator of how healthy the ecosystem it thrives in,is and by extension understanding the health of other species in said ecosystem.
The frogs primarily live near Lake Titicaca, a large lake spanning an area of 3,200 square miles across Bolivia and Peru. However, their numbers are dwindling. Over-harvesting for human food (despite hunting and trading the frogs being illegal in Peru, Bolivia and internationally), as well as invasive trout and loss of habitat have had untold consequences for their numbers, CNN reported.
Because of the lake's sheer size and plethora of habitats, it is next to impossible to get an accurate figure on the living population of frogs. Nonetheless, their decline has been something conservationists have been worried about for decades. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recorded an 80% population drop between 1994 and 2004.
In the years since, however, the lake hasn't improved. The IUCN claims it will most likely continue to get worse, and over 90% of the population may have died off on the Bolivian side of the lake.
In 2016, over 10,000 of the frogs suddenly died of unknown causes, though many suspect sludge and toxic sewage runoff of being involved.
However, this new bold international initiative seeks to save the dwindling population of such a unique species.
With experts in a variety of disciplines from the US, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia and backing from the Bolivian and Peruvian governments, the United Nations Development Program and the Global Environment Facility, the project aims at allowing researchers to study the frogs to evaluate the population, as well as create a conservation policy to protect areas under threat, CNN reported.
Currently, there exists a successful breeding program of these endangered frogs. At the beginning of 2019, there were around 3,000 frogs living in Peruvian breeding centers, and an additional 250 in zoos in Europe and North America. According to Live Science, the frogs have a lifespan of up to 20 years in captivity.