Carlos Roberto Vásquez Almazán is a Guatemalan biologist who works as the curator of herpetology for the Museum of Natural History at the National University of San Carlos’s in Guatemala.
He is also coordinator of the Amphibian Conservation Program at the Foundation for Eco-development and Conservation (FUNDAECO), a local NGO dedicated to protecting Guatemala’s wildlife. At present, Carlos is also working on his Ph.D. at the University of Mexico (UNAM), focusing on endangered frog groups that occur in Nuclear Central America.
Carlos’ research and countless hours in the field have resulted in numerous important discoveries involving species of amphibians and reptiles throughout Guatemala. A product of this dedication involves rediscovering 10 of Guatemala’s endemic amphibian species; authoring or coauthoring various publications for both scientific journals and popular magazines; two new species descriptions of salamanders (family Plethodontidae), one new species of snake (family Colubridae); one important paper that reports the extinction of an important clade of salamanders from Guatemalan and Mexican highlands; and finally, reports of the first infections of chytridiomicosis in Plethodontid salamanders in Guatemala.
Since 2008 Carlos has led national efforts to re-survey amphibians occurring in ecologically important Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites across the country. Through this, not only did he discover species new to science, but also re-discovered species thought to have been extinct for over 15 years. Carlos’s findings have helped rally local support for its protection and, as a result, Guatemala’s first reserve for amphibian conservation, encompassing 2,300 hectares, and protecting five critically endangered species was declared in 2011.
Located on the border between Guatemala and Honduras, the Sierra Caral is one of the largest and most biodiverse remaining cloud forests in Central America. Home to an astonishing array of insects, reptiles and birds, as well as unparalleled numbers of endangered frogs and salamanders – many of which are found nowhere else on Earth – the region has been identified as the number one priority for conservation in Guatemala.
However, the Sierra Caral forest is being lost at an alarming rate as a result of expanding agriculture, threatening not only wildlife but also the local communities who rely on the forest for their livelihoods and wellbeing. To add to the problem, despite 30% of Guatemala being designated as officially protected on paper, in reality many sites are un-enforced on the ground. In the absence of authorities and proper management, forests are left unprotected against illegal logging and from collectors targeting rare amphibians for sale to the international pet trade. Local awareness about amphibians is also low, as Carlos explains, “Amphibians are not well known in Guatemala, this lack of information makes them highly vulnerable and since they have no apparent value to local people, they receive no attention”.
To ensure the new reserve is properly protected, Carlos is training members of the community as park guards and as wildlife guides to help build capacity for sustainable ecotourism. Central to his goal is the launch of a new education program to help raise awareness about the decline of amphibians and the importance of forest conservation. His team is also expanding their survey work to collect data that will support the formation of a network of protected and actively managed AZE sites to help conserve threatened amphibians right across Guatemala.
Carlos organizes surveys through all the country, working in alliance with colleagues from University of California and Toledo Zoo. This surveys help to National Council of Protected Areas to have recent information about the actually status of the endangered species of amphibians and reptiles in the country. My upcoming work is with Plectrohyla, Mesoamerican endemic genus of frogs that occurs in the highlands in Nuclear Central America. These frogs have an important threathened because the chytridiomycosis and the loss of their habitats.
Ongoing project is try to create a network of protected areas for endangered amphibian’s right across Guatemala, this is a gap into the protected areas system and will help to detect the most important areas to protect the biodiversity in Guatemala. Also an envinromental program education implemented by the Museum of Natural History and Fundaeco will be one of the goals of this program to influence in the Guatemalan society to understand why the amphibians are so important.
- Ph.D. Candidate Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas UNAM, México.
- Biologist at Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala.
Jaime García-Moreno, Amy Upgren, Jorge Iván Restrepo, Wilfredo Matamoros, Alfredo D. Cuarón, Topiltzin Contreras-MacBeath, Nora López, John Lamoreux, Meghan McKnight, Antonio Muñoz, Paul Walker, Josiah Townsend, Carlos Vásquez-Almazán, Claudia Macías, Oliver Komar, Jim Barborak, Ruth Jiménez y Jaime R. Bonilla-Barbosa. 2008 Los Sitios más Críticos para Evitar Extinciones de Especies Globalmente Amenazadas: la Importancia de su Identificación y de Recabar Información en el Campo. Mesoamericana Vol. 11(4): 59-63
Jaime García-Moreno, Robin Moore, Georgina Santos-Barrera, Nicolás Urbina-Cardona, Antonio Muñoz-Alonzo, Paul Walker, Zoe Walker, Carlos Vásquez-Almazán, Josiah Townsend, Ruth Jiménez, Amy Upgren, Jim Barborak y Jaime R. Bonilla-Barbosa. 2008. Una Visión del Estado de los Anfibios Críticamente Amenazados del Norte de Centroamérica y los Sitios en los que Habitan. Mesoamericana Vol. 12(1): 37-40
Curan Bonham, Eduardo Sacayón, Mercedes Barrios, Sergio Perez, Carlos Vásquez-Almazán, José Cajas, Nicté Ordoñez, Enio Cano y Fredy Archila. 2009. Biodiversity and biogeographic significance of the Sierra Chinajá in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala: a first look. International Journal of Biodiversity Science & Management: 5:3, 115 — 131
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17451590903223236
Vásquez-Almazán, Carlos R., Raymond Dugas y Sayra Chanquin. 2009. Manual para la Identificación, prevención y tratamiento de mordeduras de serpientes venenosas en Centro América Volumen I: Guatemala. OPS/OMS, MSPAS, Museo de Historia Natural, USAC. 116 pp.
Rovito, S.M., Parra-Olea, G., Vásquez-Almazán, C.R., Papenfuss, T.J. and Wake, D.B. 2009. Dramatic declines in Middle American salamanders are an important component of the global amphibian crisis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106: 3231-3236.
Vásquez-Almazán, C.R., Rovito, S.M., Good, D.A. and Wake, D.B. 2009. A new species of Cryptotriton (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from eastern Guatemala. Copeia (2): 313-319.
Rovito, S., C.R. Vásquez-Almazán and T.J. Papenfuss. 2010. New Species of Bolitoglossa (Caudata: Plethodontidae) from the Sierra de Las Minas, Guatemala. Journal of Herpetology Vol 44, No. 4 pp. 516-525
Acevedo, M., L. D. Wilson, E. B. Cano, and C. Vásquez-Almazán. 2010. Diversity and conservation status of the Guatemalan Herpetofauna. Pg. 406–435. In L. D. Wilson, J. H. Townsend, and J. D. Johnson (Eds.), Conservation of Mesoamerican Amphibians and Reptiles. Eagle Mountain Publishing LC, Eagle Mountain, Utah.
Papenfuss, Ted, Vásquez Almazán, Carlos y Rovito, Sean. 2010. Rediscovery of the Endangered and Critically Endangered endemic Guatemalan salamanders. FROGLOG: vol 93
Vásquez Almazán, Carlos, 2011. Papenfuss, Theodore, Moore, Robin, Hussain Aga Khan y Church, Don. 2011. The Sierra Caral of Guatemala: a refuge for endemic amphibians. FROGLOG: vol 95
Vásquez Almazán, Carlos, Papenfuss, Ted y Rovito, Sean. 2011. “Análisis Morfológico del Complejo de Especiesde Salamandras Pletodóntidas “Bolitoglossa morio” COPE, 1869 (Amphibia: Caudata: Plethodontidae) en Diferentes localidades de Guatemala” Tesis de Graduación. Escuela de Biología, USAC. 67 pp.
Vásquez-Almazán, C. and J. W. Streicher. 2011. Geographic Distribution. Nototriton brodiei from Sierra de Caral, Izabal, Guatemala. Herpetological Review 42(2): 235.
Streicher, J.W., G. Ruano Fajardo and C.R. Vásquez-Almazán. 2011. Natural History Notes: Plestiodon sumichrasti. Predation. Herpetological Review 42(3): 431-432.
Rovito, S., Wake, D., Papenfuss, T., Parra-Olea, G., Muñoz-Alonso, A., and Vásquez-Almazán, C. 2012. Species formation and geographical range evolution in a genus of Central American cloud forest salamanders (Dendrotriton). Journal of Biogeography. http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jbi1doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2012.02696.x
Rovito, Sean., Papenfuss, Theodore y Vásquez Almazán, Carlos. 2012. A New Species of Sibon (Squamata: Colubridae) from the mountains of Eastern Guatemala. ZOOTAXA 3266: 62-68
Rovito, S., Parra-Olea, G., Vásquez-Almazán, C., Luna-Reyes, R. and D. Wake. 2012. Deep divergences and extensive phylogeographic structure in a clade of lowland tropical salamanders. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12:255