Changing Planet

Edgar Lehr: Where No Biologist Has Gone Before

Get a first-person view of life in the field from amphibian and reptile biologist, Edgar Lehr exploring remote areas of Peru for new species of frogs and lizards. Text written by Sharon Jacobs.

Mission: To identify amphibians in one of the world’s least known areas.

Pui Pui Protected Forest. Photo: Edgar Lehr.

The Pui Pui protected forest in the Peruvian Andes is so remote that no inventory of its wildlife has ever been made—until now. During a six-week expedition, Edgar Lehr found a whopping seven new species of frog and one of lizard.

“This reflects that no fieldwork has been done before,” says Lehr. It’s also a factor of the region’s geography—Andean peaks separate populations, so different species have evolved in neighboring valleys. Lehr’s team trekked at elevations reaching nearly four thousand meters, searching for new amphibian species and collecting skin samples to test for chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease connected to amphibian declines around the world.

Lack of oxygen and paths damaged by mudslides contributed to the challenge—as did human activity. In one area, the team camped near a path rumored to be used by smugglers. “Locals told us, when you hear noises in the night, don’t turn on your flashlights,” says Lehr.

He plans to return next summer to identify more species while they’re still around. “I’m afraid what has happened in the past, and still happens, is that species which are not known to scientists become extinct,” says Lehr. “We only can protect what we know.”

Learn More

Ultimate Amphibian Photo Gallery

Complete Travel Guide to Peru

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