The purpose of Phase I of Project Palaka was to test the feasibility of implementing ex-situ amphibian conservation in the Philippines. As such, we utilized “analog species” to develop captive care protocols that can be used for more threatened species for Phase II onwards. All of our frogs were collected from Mt. Makiling, under a gratuitous permit granted by the DENR. Frogs were housed at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños Museum of Natural History's hortorium building until March 2016.
Platymantis corrugatus (Rough-backed forest frog) is one of the most widely distributed frog species in the Philippines, occurring on every island with the exception of Palawan. It is found on the forest floor of rain forests up to 1,300 meters in elevation. It has been listed by the IUCN as “Least Concern”, and populations are stable. (1) Some populations are locally threatened by deforestation.
Platymantis dorsalis (Dumeril’s wrinkled ground frog) is a cryptically-colored forest floor-dwelling species, P. dorsalis lives in forests across the Luzon and Visayas island groups. It is found up to 1,500 meters in elevation. The IUCN has classified P. dorsalis as “Least Concern”, however, populations are believed to be decreasing. (2) This species is widespread. However, some populations are under threat due to illegal logging, conversion of forests for agriculture, and mining operations.
Platymantis luzonensis (Luzon forest frog) inhabits forests up to 1,200 meters in elevation. The species has a patchy range on southeastern Luzon, from the Bulacan region at the northernmost edge distribution, down to Legaspi City in the south. It is also found on Polillo Island. It has been designated as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, and populations are believed to be decreasing. (3) This species is threatened by the clearing of forests for agriculture, illegal logging, and charcoal production.
Platymantis mimulus (Diminutive forest frog) was the smallest species we maintained in Project Palaka Phase I; most individuals were approximately 15 mm! It is similar in appearance to P. dorsalis. In fact, P. mimulus and P. dorsalis were once thought to be the same species. Found in the vicinity of Mt. Makiling and surrounding areas, this species lives in forests at approximately 400 meters ASL. Originally listed as “Near Threatened”, this species was downgraded to “Least Concern” by the IUCN in 2018. (4) It is potentially threatened by the conversion of forests to agricultural use and housing development, but not to an extensive degree as of yet.
Pulchrana similis (Laguna de Bay frog) is found in wetlands and wet forest habitats, up to 800 meters in elevation. It has a patchy distribution throughout southern Luzon and surrounding islands. During Phase I, P. similis was found to be the shyest and most skittish of the species maintained at Project Palaka, preferring to spend the majority of its time in bamboo hideouts. The IUCN lists the species as “Least Concern”, but states that populations are declining.(5) The Philippines Red List Assessment Workshop (2017) states that the main threats to this species are: clearing of forests for agriculture and palm oil plantations, expanding human settlements, mining, quarrying, and pollution to waterways associated with the aforementioned activities. (6)
Rhacophorus pardalis (Panther flying frog) is found in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It occurs in inland wetlands and forests, up to 1,015 meters in elevation. Unlike the other frogs maintained at Project Palaka, this species is arboreal; R. pardalis has elongated toes with extensive webbing, allowing for the frog to “glide” from tree to tree. This species is widespread, and classified by the IUCN as “Least Concern”. (7) We kept R. pardalis at Project Palaka, as an analog for other arboreal species, but also for the purposes of educational outreach, as it is a colorful frog well-received by the public as a “mascot” for the project.