This species occurs in the southern part of the Colombian Andes in Cauca, and Huila Departments, between 2,500–4,700 m asl. The northern subpopulation from the Páramo de las Papas, Boyacá Department in the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia, that was previously included within this concept as the subspecies Atelopus ebenoides marinkellei, has now been removed as the subspecies has been elevated to species status (Atelopus marinkellei - Rueda-Almonacid et al. 2005). The corrected altitudinal range is 2,500–3,700 m asl (A. Rymel Acosta Galvis pers. comm. February 2017). The extent of occurrence (EOO) is 871 km2.
Habitat and Ecology
This species occurs on vegetation, mosses and in leaf-litter along streams in Andean forests and páramos. It has not been recorded from disturbed habitat. The tadpoles develop in streams.
This species was reported to be common in the past (around 20–30 years ago) by the native communities of the area (A. Rymel Acosta Galvis pers. comm. 2017). However, it is known from less than 10 museum specimens. The last individual seen but not collected, was in 2005 (A. Rymel Acosta Galvis pers. comm. 2017). More recent surveys were carried out in 2014 by a three person team searching for seven hours over 29 km with its historical range within the framework of a bigger project (Corridor of the Paletara for the Study of Environmental Impact in Natural National Park Puracé), but they did not find the species (A. Rymel Acosta Galvis pers. comm. 2017). The lack of records was not necessarily attributed to the species disappearance, but rather that the survey was not conducted during the reproduction season when the probability of encounter is higher. Due to ongoing decline in the extent and quality of habitat, the population is suspected to be decreasing.
The 2004 assessment reported that chytridiomycosis was probably the major threat, leading to a catastrophic population decline. While there is currently no direct information confirming that chytrid has caused declines in this species, the pattern of decline is consistent in many other montane Atelopus species, and it is therefore reasonable to infer that the disease might be the cause of declines in this species (Colombia Red List Assessment Workshop August 2016). Habitat loss caused by agricultural expansion (cattle ranching, and the planting of illegal crops), pollution from the fumigation of crops and water source loss are also all threats. In the present, the agricultural expansion is considered as localized threat and it only includes cattle ranching and potato plantations. The illegal crops are considered very localized. One major threat that could affect the population is the presence of trout in the area, which is presumed to feed on the eggs of amphibians.
This species occurs in Puracé National Park, which is considered to be well protected (with the exception of chytridiomycosis presence and rainbow trout). Thus more effort is needed to find it, specially during the reproduction season.
Given the threat of chytridiomycosis, successful conservation measures will probably need to include the maintenance of any surviving individuals in captivity. However, the presence of the fungus has never been confirmed in the area. Research in plausible threats, population trends, ecology and distribution are recommended for this threatened species. Ex situ reproductions is not considered a priority in the present, rather the research needed has to be in in situ conditions to have feasible success in ex situ conditions.
Surveys are required to locate this species.
Red List Status
Critically Endangered (CR)
Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) under criterion D because the species was common in the past, but after a severe population decline probably due to an extreme drought period between 1995–1997 and also probably coupled with the emergence of chytrid fungus and the presence of the trout in the area, the sub-populations have not recuperated and it is thought that if it still persists, it has less than 50 mature individuals. It could be possibly extinct since the intensive surveys for this and other Atelopus species in the decade of 2000, only found one specimen of this species.
This is a restricted concept of this species following the split of the broader concept into this and Atelopus marinkellei (Rueda-Almonacid and Rueda-Martínez 2005).
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2017. Atelopus ebenoides. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T81646342A49535044. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T81646342A49535044.en