First Nations Frontline

The frog that could save the world: Colombia’s Starry Night Toad

Thought to be extinct for 30 years, the starry night harlequin toad is thriving in Colombia due to the local way of life.

In Colombia, Arhuaco leader Ruperto Chaparro Villafaña teams up with scientists to save the critically endangered starry night harlequin toad.

They need to unite both indigenous and western scientific knowledge to understand the role of the toads in the unique ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the world’s highest coastal mountain and the sacred land of the Arhuacos.

The life cycle of the frog helps determine when to cultivate and harvest different crops – the reason this species is a bellwether for their community-based project.

Chaparro Villafaña must also defend their territory against illegal land grabbers, even as he is working with scientists to find the cure for a deadly fungus that threatens all harlequin toad species in the Central, South and North America.