This species is known from three threat-defined locations in Colombia: (1) the slopes of southeast Cuchilla San Lorenzo, in the northwest sector of Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (in the department of Magdalena), and the adjacent El Dorado Nature Reserve, (2) in La Serranía de Cebolletas, in the department of Magdalena, and (3) in two watersheds in Guajira (L.A. Rueda-Solano pers. comm. 2014). These locations are geographically distinct and separated by high mountain formations; the threat of habitat loss is driven by local factors and differs in severity among sites. It has been recorded from 1,900-2,880 m asl. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated to be 797 km2.
Habitat and Ecology
This species is an inhabitant of sub-Andean forests. It can also tolerate some modification of its habitat, but is more abundant in intact habitat (Granda-Rodríguez et al. 2008). Individuals have been found within a closed-canopy (up to 25 m) secondary forest and in riparian forest, close to a creek (Carvajalino-Fernández et al. 2008). This species lays egg chains in streams, where the tadpoles also develop.
It was historically a common species when surveyed in 1992. A subpopulation was rediscovered on 22 May 2006 when staff of the El Dorado Nature Reserve located two individuals in a small forested stream. In 2006, surveys conducted at San Lorenzo recorded 12 apparently healthy individuals over the course of two days (Carvajalino-Fernández et al. 2008), and another group encountered relatively high abundances of up to 10-12 individuals occurring on individual stream-side boulders (J.V. Rueda-Almonacid pers. comm. 2014). Sampling efforts on four separate occasions in 2006 and 2007 provide evidence of a stable population in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, with observations of 357 individuals at two sample sites; however, the individuals encountered were predominantly males (96% of observations) and no juveniles were observed (Granda-Rodríguez et al. 2008, 2012). More recent monitoring in San Lorenzo (since 2013) also provides evidence of a stable population, but corroborates previous findings of a male-biased sex ratio; females were observed relatively infrequently (L.A. Rueda-Solano pers. comm. 2014). While locally abundant, individuals appear to aggregate only in a few specific stream reaches at each site and are absent from most nearby suitable habitat.
Chytridiomycosis has had a devastating impact on other high-altitude Atelopus species and represents a plausible threat for this species; however, infections have not been detected in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (L.A. Rueda-Solano pers. comm. 2014). Habitat loss due to agriculture and pollution from the fumigation of illegal crops are also major threats. Specifically, the subpopulation in La Serranía de Cebolletas is threatened by ongoing conversion of forest to pasture lands (L.A. Rueda-Solano pers. comm. 2014), and there is forest loss occurring in San Lorenzo near the El Dorado Reserve (O. Cortés pers. comm. 2014).
Its range includes Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and the adjacent El Dorado Nature Reserve. The El Dorado Reserve was established in March 2006 to secure one of the last forested valleys for this and other threatened amphibian and bird species (Fundación ProAves 2006). It also occurs within a protected area associated with the Rio Palomino watershed in Guajira (L.A. Rueda-Solano pers. comm. 2014). Additional habitat protection is needed at La Serranía de Cebolletas. Ongoing surveys are needed to monitor the current population status of this species, and research is needed to determine the presence of chytrid.
Red List Status
Listed as Endangered because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated at 797 km2, it is known only from three threat-defined locations, and there is continuing decline in the area, extent, and quality of its habitat in northern Colombia. There is lack of evidence for ongoing declines or sufficient reasons to suspect precipitous declines will occur in the near future. However, the threat of chytrid being introduced to the area warrants close monitoring of known subpopulations for infection.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2014. Atelopus laetissimus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T54519A3015811. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2014-3.RLTS.T54519A3015811.en