PUNO, Peru, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Wildlife officials in Peru are investigating the mass die-off of Titicaca water frogs, a critically endangered species. As many as 10,000 specimens have been found dead, floating in the shallows and washed up along the shoreline of Lake Titicaca.
Though no official cause of death has been confirmed, Lake Titicaca has become increasingly polluted in recent years.
Titicaca water frogs are wholly aquatic frogs. They are known as "scrotum frogs," named for their loose, wrinkly skin.
Environmental activists with the Committee Against the Pollution of the Coata River first alerted authorities to the problem, delivering more than 100 dead frogs to wildlife officials in Puno, a city on the west coast of Lake Titicaca.
The dead frogs were collected on the banks of the Coata, which delivers polluted water to the lake on a daily basis. As wildlife officials soon found out, the 100 frogs accounted for only a small percentage of the casualties.
"Based on local residents' statements and samples taken in the days after the incident, it is believed that more than 10,000 frogs were affected over about 30 miles," officials with the Peruvian National Forestry and Wildlife Service wrote in a released statement.
Raw sewage and solid human waste was found near sites were large numbers of dead frogs were seen floating in the water. Sea gulls were observed preying on the flotilla of dead frogs.
Despite the threat of pollution, locals continue to collect Titicaca water frogs, Telmatobius culeus, for food. Biologists believe trout, introduced to the lake by fishermen, may be preying on the frog's eggs.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the frog's population has declined by as much 80 percent over the last 15 years.
"It was previously common, but it has experienced massive declines, and it is now seriously threatened," IUCN warns.