This species has been recorded from more than 10 localities on both slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes from the Cuenca Basin (in the Province of Azuay) north to Juan Benigno Vela (in the Province of Tungurahua). Records from Intac in the Province of Imbabura are considered to be invalid, and are not mapped here. The altitudinal range is 2,469-4,000 m asl. The geographic range comprises ca 9,675 km2 (Merino-Viteri et al. 2005).
Habitat and Ecology
Its ecological realm includes cloud forests, moist scrubland, high-altitude páramo grassland, evergreen montane forests and dry montane scrubland (Merino-Viteri et al. 2005). It is found in the vicinity of streams and rivers. By day, adults usually are found beneath rocks and in weedy vegetation in and at the edge of streams (where they breed).
It was formerly reasonably common, but it has declined dramatically and might be extinct. It was last recorded in Lagunas de Atillo, in the Province of Chimborazo, in December 1994. Subsequent surveys at historical localities (N=9, 1994-2005) have been unable to locate the species again (Merino-Viteri et al. 2005).
Telmatobius species in Ecuador have been impacted by disease (not only from chytridiomycosis-confirmed in this species in 1994-but also from another fungal disease, a nematode infection, and from morphological malformations). Climatic abnormalities might also be implicated, and are perhaps related to the incidence of disease outbreaks. In addition, habitat destruction and degradation is taking place due to agricultural development (crops and livestock ranching) and human settlement. Local people have traditionally heavily used species of the genus for food.
About 9.7% (942.5 km2) of the species' geographic range is comprised within Ecuador's Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, mostly in Parque Nacional Cajas (Merino-Viteri et al. 2005). Although protection and maintenance of existing habitat is clearly needed, the risk of disease means that it is a very high priority to conduct surveys to relocate this species and determine its current population status. Any surviving individuals should form the basis for the initiation of a captive-breeding programme.
Andrés Merino-Viteri, Luis A. Coloma, Santiago Ron, John Lynch 2010. Telmatobius niger. In: IUCN 2014