This species occurs in north-western Ecuador in Esmeraldas, Imbabura, and Pichincha Provinces, at 300-1,140m asl, and on Gorgona Island, a small island 30km off the Colombian coast on the Pacific side, where it occurs close to sea level.
Habitat and Ecology
It lives in lowland and submontane humid rainforest, and has not been found in degraded habitats. It breeds in streams.
In Ecuador, it has declined very seriously and has disappeared in the last ten years, with no records since November 1994, apart from one record in November 2002 from Bogotá River in Esmeralda Province. For example, in a recent survey, it was not found 5km north-west of Alluriquín (in Pichincha Province), where it used to be abundant (L. Coloma pers. comm.). On Gorgona Island, the species is still very common.
The decline in Ecuador is unexplained, and is possibly due to chytridiomycosis, although its elevational range is rather low for this disease. It is also impacted by habitat destruction and degradation, due to agriculture, logging, and human settlement.
In Ecuador, its range overlaps with the Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas. In Colombia it occurs in the Parque Nacional Natural Isla Gorgona. It is an urgent priority to locate the Ecuadorian population and to implement emergency ex-situ conservation measures. Close monitoring of the population on Gorgona Island is needed, since, as far as is known, chytrid has not yet been recorded from this population.
Red List Status
Critically Endangered (CR)
The population on Gorgona Island (i.e., Atelopus gracilis) should be removed from the synonymy of Atelopus elegans (S. Lötters pers. comm.), but is here provisionally retained in A. elegans pending revision.
Luis A. Coloma, Santiago Ron, Wilmar Bolívar, Diego Cisneros-Heredia, Stefan Lötters 2010. Atelopus elegans. In: IUCN 2014