The XII Latin American Congress of Herpetology, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from October 30 to November 3, 2023, served as the venue for the second in-person Workshop of the Atelopus Survival Initiative (ASI). Crafted to serve as a platform uniting all those interested in harlequin toad conservation, the workshop attracted an unexpectedly robust attendance of approximately 60 participants—despite its specificity within the broader scope of the congress—constituting almost a quarter of all congress attendees!
Neotropical harlequin toads of the genus Atelopus are a mesmerizing group of amphibians found in the forests, paramos, and streams of Central and South America. Adorned with vibrant colors and unique patterns, these toads are like nature's living jewels. Launched in 2021, ASI is a collaborative effort dedicated to the conservation of these animals, addressing threats such as habitat loss and degradation, infectious diseases, and climate change. ASI brings together academia, non-governmental organizations, captive breeding centers, local communities, and governments among others to implement comprehensive, long-term conservation measures to ensure the survival of these unique and highly threatened amphibians.
The objectives of the ASI workshop were multifaceted, like sharing recent activities and exchange experiences, evaluating the degree of implementation of the Harlequin Toad (Atelopus) Conservation Action Plan (HarleCAP), discussing progress and challenges, re-evaluating strategies, and planning relevant activities for the upcoming years. The workshop commenced with a comprehensive presentation by Luis Marin Fonte, ASI's Coordinator, outlining ASI's structure, goals, and ongoing activities. Following this, ASI members had the opportunity to introduce their work and emphasize their contributions to harlequin toad conservation. Subsequently, participants were divided into Working Groups (in situ conservation, ex situ conservation, infectious diseases, and communications) to engage in discussions about the activities of the HarleCAP conducted in recent years and to identify priority actions for implementation in the coming years. The collaborative atmosphere created an environment where participants had the opportunity to deepen their mutual understanding and foster stronger connections.
Reflecting on the success of the workshop, Luis remarked, "The ASI workshop demonstrated the keen interest of the Latin American herpetological community in harlequin toad conservation. It provided a valuable opportunity to showcase and publicize ASI's work, strengthen existing bonds, remobilize, attract new members, and initiate new collaborations. The workshop was a testament to ASI's commitment to collaboration, and its success underscores the effectiveness of this approach in conserving highly threatened amphibians. The recently published State of the World’s Amphibians: The Second Global Amphibian Assessment further emphasizes the importance of such collaborative models focusing on highly threatened amphibian genera, positioning ASI as a role model in the field of amphibian conservation."
The II Workshop of the Atelopus Survival Initiative stands as a pivotal moment, reinforcing the initiative's dedication to collaboration, innovation, and a shared vision for the future of harlequin toad conservation in the Neotropics.