Story at a glance

  • Last seen in 1989, the longnose harlequin frog was long-believed to have been extinct.
  • In 2016, four of the frogs were spotted in the cloud forests of the tropical Andes in Ecuador, reestablishing hope for the species’ survival.
  • The unique amphibian is under threat again as plans for a copper mine in the area commence.

The longnose harlequin frog had long-believed to have been extinct before it was spotted in recent years, but new threats have conservationists worried it could go extinct once again — for real this time. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) still lists the longnose harlequin frog as extinct — noting it hasn’t been reevaluated since 2004 — as it had last been seen in 1989. Then, in 2016, four of the frogs were spotted in the cloud forests of the tropical Andes in Ecuador, reestablishing hope for the species’ survival.

However, the unique amphibian is under threat again as plans for mining in the area commence. A joint venture, between Chilean mining company Codelco and Ecuador’s Enami, called the Llurimagua copper opencast mine has activists in the area concerned that the species could once again diminish as the mining site would destroy its primary habitat.

Carlos Zorrilla, the executive director of the environmental organization Decoin, has suggested that an article of Ecuador’s constitution could be used to fight the mine construction.

“Mining would violate the ‘rights of nature’, which are enshrined in Ecuador’s constitution,” Zorrilla told The Guardian. “This is a good argument to halt mining at this site.”

The “rights of nature” refers to Article 73, added to Ecuador’s constitution in 2008, which made the country the first worldwide to acknowledge the rights and protection of nature. Article 73 reads, “The state shall apply preventive and restrictive measures on activities that might lead to the extinction of species, the destruction of ecosystems and the permanent alteration of natural cycles.”


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Though, this itself may face its own pushback as Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso signed two presidential decrees that largely support the establishment and widespread development of mining in the country. 

Zorilla is leading a team that has brought a lawsuit against the proposed mine to stop its construction. However, the project is currently at a standstill as both Codelco and Enami attempt to work out an internal disagreement.

“This is one of the biological jewels of the world,” Zorilla said, adding, “Communities would have to be relocated. It’s going to devastate a biological jewel, displace people and we’ll be left with all the environmental liabilities.”


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Published on Nov 23, 2021