Colombia’s golden poison dart frog has been nominated to be a wonder of the natural world by international conservation groups.
The frog, considered to be one of the most toxic animals on earth and with enough venom to kill 10 men, lives in a small plot of rainforest on Colombia’s western Pacific coast. The tiny animal, only two inches long, has been nominated by a network of organizations who have taken the traditional “seven wonders of the world” concept and modified it to help raise awareness for the most threatened species and sites on the planet.
The original backpackers of Ancient Greece made a seven wonders of the world list in approximately 480 BC, with variations of the list being produced ever since. This new adaptation will be compiled by 83 international NGOs brought together by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), and helped by the votes of Internet users.
The AZE has identified 587 sites worldwide with endangered species that only live in these respective ecosystems. According to the vice president of the group there are already “international efforts to preserve” the historical sites of the usual seven wonders such as the Great Pyramids in Egypt, or Machu Picchu in Peru.
“There should also be protection for the sites that host the planet’s most endangered species,” said the vice president.
Of the 587 sites, 20 have been chosen which can be voted for on the AZE’s Facebook page, including four South American sites.
The golden frog, whose powerful venom is used by the indigenous people of the western Colombian Choco region to tip their blowgun darts for hunting, is on international endangered lists because its rain forest habitat is being destroyed.
The source of the frog’s incredible toxicity is not known, and when raised in captivity they never develop venom. Some scientists have suggested that the amphibians assimilate plant poisons carried by their prey of ants, termites, crickets, beetles and flies.
Medicinal uses for the frog’s venom are currently being explored and a synthetic version is being hailed as a possible powerful painkiller. The only natural predator of the creature is a snake which has developed resistance to its poison.
The other South American candidates include one of the world’s smallest owls, the furry mochudo of Peru, the Juan Fernandez hummingbird of Chile, and Lear’s Macaw of Brazil.
Emphasizing the importance of the initiative, AZE’s vice president said, “these species have been on Earth longer than any monument built by humans and we cannot let them go away quietly.”