US officials seek to protect tiny Puerto Rico frog

Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A Puerto Rican frog about the size of a toenail could receive protection from U.S. environmental officials, who announced Tuesday they would like to list it as an endangered species.

The coqui llanero is the island's smallest tree frog and has a call with such a high-pitched frequency that it can barely be heard is barely heard, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency said it is proposing to designate more than 600 acres (240 hectares) of wetlands in northern Puerto Rico as the species' critical habitat. The majority of that property is managed by the U.S. Department of Defense and has been tagged for residential development. The remaining land is managed by the local government.

The coqui llanero is found only in the wetlands, and if the designation is awarded, the Puerto Rico government and U.S. Defense Department would have to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before any development is approved, the agency said.

An endangered species status would make it illegal to kill, harm or capture the frog, which was discovered in 2005 and is one of 17 coqui species. Its eggs have been found only on the bulltongue arrowhead plant.

Agency spokeswoman Lilibeth Serrano said scientists do not have even a rough estimate of how many coqui llaneros exist in the wild.

The agency is accepting comments on its proposal through mid-December.

Puerto Rico's government has already listed the frog as critically endangered and designated more than 1,500 acres (600 hectares) as its critical habitat.

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