ANKARA, 10 November (BelTA - Anadolu Agensy). - Türkiye's unique and critically endangered Taurus frog is under threat from serious habitat loss caused by various factors, including climate change-related global warming, according to an expert.
Thanks to climatic and geographical conditions, the fauna of Türkiye is abundant and extremely varied and includes many rare and endemic species.
But in Türkiye, as in other parts of the world, such species struggle to survive under various threats such as climate change, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mert Karis, an expert on herpetology, the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians, said the first member of the species was discovered over 120 years ago in the areas of the Karagol and Ciniligol lakes, located in the Bolkar Mountains.
"The Taurus frog, or by its scientific name Rana holtzi, was first described as a subspecies of the Uludag frog, also known as Rana macrocnemis, in 1898 by Austrian scientist Franz Werner," he noted, adding that later, as a result of comprehensive studies, it was found that the Taurus frog is a new species rather than a subspecies.
The unique species lives only in areas of Nigde province at an altitude of 2,500-3,000 meters (8,202-9,842 feet) and some small puddles within the borders of Mersin province, said Karis, who is also a lecturer at Nevsehir Haci Bektas Veli University.
Touching on the threats to the species, he pointed to the risk of the drying of lakes and puddles as he underlined that many of the habitats where the population lives dry up from the hot summer towards the September-October period.
"Until this drying period, the Taurus frog must complete the breeding process in the water. The larvae have to go terrestrial and go through metamorphosis," he said, warning that otherwise, there is a risk of losing all of the populations living out of Karagol and Ciniligol.
Karis went on to say that climate change-related global warming is the first reason behind this threat as warming weather primarily threatens animals living in cold and cool areas because there is a temperature range that those animals are used to.
"In the 1990s, the residents' unnatural release of carps in Karagol and Ciniligol became a serious problem for Taurus frogs in the early 2000s as carps are predators and the eggs of Taurus frogs are among their favorite foods," he said.
Later, the number of carp in those lakes significantly decreased thanks to protection efforts as well as some projects carried out by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye (TUBITAK), he noted.
"With more comprehensive efforts, the lakes should be freed from non-native species," said Karis, adding that transhumance, off-road and trekking activities, camping, and climbing are other things that negatively affect the species and its habitats.
The Turkish expert warned that all these activities need to be carried out under some regulation, especially during the activation time, when the frogs awaken from their seasonal hibernation in the winter.
The Taurus frog is marked as "CR" (critically endangered) on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of threatened species.
Karis also noted that preventing pollution in the region and preserving the nature of waters inhabited by these frogs are also key steps in the protection of the species.
The species is also important for ecotourism as many people come from abroad to view and photograph it, he said, stressing that this also should be under control as some foreigners can do sample collecting and hurt this endemic and unique species.
He concluded that about 50,000 Taurus frogs remain in the wild, living in five or six populations.