When considering the impact a mine can have on wildlife, few believe it could be positive. In the case of the Giant Tree Frog and the Yellow Tree Frog in the Dominican Republic, critical research led by Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation (PVDC) contributed to their reclassification from endangered to vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a process known as down-listing. PVDC is the joint venture company (60 percent Barrick, 40 percent Goldcorp) that owns the Pueblo Viejo mine.
The research is part of the PVDC El Llagal Offset Program (ELOP), which was established in 2008 to ensure compliance with PVDC’s environmental permit and International Finance Corporation guidelines that require companies to mitigate potential impacts on wildlife habitat. PVDC has committed $8.3 million to the program.
The program, currently led by PVDC’s Biodiversity Advisor, Pedro Galvis, includes the establishment of a captive breeding program, studying the reproductive and feeding habits of various tree frog species, and a telemetry program to track the movements of the frogs and understand habitat requirements. While the program was an integral part of developing the Pueblo Viejo mine, the research has also contributed to a growing scientific body of knowledge about these poorly-understood amphibians.
Country-wide field studies supported by a multidisciplinary team of local and international experts resulted in the discovery of new pockets of Giant Tree Frogs and Yellow Tree Frogs in the wild.
“We set out to re-check areas that had historically been part of the frogs’ distribution and a few new areas where sightings had been claimed,” says Gail Ross, Barrick’s Manager of Biological and Ecological Services. “We were very pleased when we discovered existing populations.”
To down-list a species, five years’ worth of data demonstrating population stability, or data demonstrating an error in the original assessment, must be submitted to an IUCN panel of experts. The panel aims to reassess species every four to five years using a standardized process. “Once data is submitted to the IUCN, the organization will verify trends and arrive at its own conclusion,” Ross says.
The captive frog breeding program continues in partnership with the Santo Domingo Zoo, both at site and at the zoo, to help increase the country’s capacity for frog conservation. The program is also supported by the Toledo Zoo in Toledo, Ohio.
“These frogs aren’t out of the woods yet,” Ross adds. “But the research to date has increased capacity and understanding of how to mitigate and protect amphibians in the Dominican Republic.”
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