Conservation & Research
New discovery to science in the Amazon

Crees’ research team uncover a species new to science in our nature reserve – a fascinating natural treasure that shows the importance of protecting regenerating rainforest.


Our nature reserve at the Manu Learning Centre (MLC), in the remote corner of the Peruvian Amazon, was farmland only 50 years ago – some areas completely destroyed, others selectively logged.

Today, it harbours species new to science, like this tiny treasure: the Poison Dart Frog (Ameerega shihuemoy)

This is a story of a rainforest reborn...

Jennifer teaching volunteers at the Manu Learning Centre about how to survey and identify frogs | Image © Katie Lin

A young Peruvian researcher, Jennifer Serrano Rojas, become fascinated by amphibians during her internship at the Crees Foundation:

“Their big eyes and colours amazed me”, said Jennifer. “I was also concerned by the need for research into amphibians, as they’re considered the vertebral group most threatened worldwide.”

Imagine then Jennifer’s joy at being part of the international team that discovered the species new to science. Supported and mentored by the team leader, Dr Andrew Whitworth, Jennifer dedicated herself to learning everything she could about the creature, studying it in minute detail.

She hiked day after day in the tough terrain of the Amazon rainforest to track the Poison Dart Frogs and watched in fascination as a male showed parental behaviour, risking his life to protect his eggs.


Male poison dart frogs display fascinating parental behaviour, risking their lives to protect their eggs | Image © Marcus Brent-Smith


Jennifer has become the leading expert on the species. Today, her scientific paper is finally published and she’s set to be featured in the National Geographic and on Mongabay.


“This species new to science was found in regenerating forest,” said Jennifer, “meaning these areas are important for conservation and they urgently need protection. Unfortunately, this area is facing threats such as logging, mining and road construction that’s causing habitat destruction and therefore the loss of species.”


Without conservation action, we will loose species in Manu before they’ve even been discovered.


Jennifer recording data on a snake found at the Manu Learning Centre, adding to much-needed knowledge on reptiles | Image © Katie Lin


This is why the Crees is passionate about funding scientific research and training field researchers like Jennifer, so that we can make evidence-based decisions on how to better conserve our corner of the Amazon and inspire the next generation of conservationists.


“Through research we can inform the public and authorities on key issues that threaten these species,” said Jennifer, “and the bigger problems that we will face if we loose them. All life is connected and when one piece is removed, then others are impacted.”


Although recognising the vitally important role that research has, here at Crees we know that we need to go further if we are to inspire behaviour change – for communities and governments to believe in and take up sustainable practices.


“While I think research will help, I don’t think it will be the saviour”, said Jennifer. “We need to adopt a bottom up approach that tackles the perception that governments and local people have, so that they have a change in consciousness about what they believe the flora and fauna means to the world.”


This is why here at Crees we combine our scientific research with community projects that spread environmental knowledge and provide sustainable livelihoods.


Jennifer is passionate about teaching field work and survey skills to share her knowledge with other researchers | Image © Katie Lin


Many local people live in poverty and have little other option then to destroy the rainforest in order to provide for their families. It’s a short-term solution that causes them long term suffering.


Our role is to collaborate with communities so that together we carve a sustainable path that provides a secure economic future for the next generation. We believe this is the only way to conserve the rainforest forever.


Despite the environmental, social and economic challenges facing Manu and the world, Jennifer is hopeful:


“I am really positive. Lately, people are understanding the importance of conservation, the services that ecosystems provide, the problems we face. The amount of research being carried out and the number of people getting involved in conservation is increasing. This next century will be the most important for conservation. It is time to put all our efforts together to conserve the environment and biodiversity. It’s not just for us, it’s for the future generations that we need to act.”


New: Field guide to amphibians of Manu

Featured image © Marcus Brent-Smith