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10/23/2007 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday designated rocky stream banks and privately owned land in southeastern Puerto Rico as critical habitat for a threatened species of the coqui frog, a national symbol of the Caribbean island.

The guajon, one of 17 species of frogs in the genus Eleutherodactylus — known locally as coquis for the "co-kee" sound made by two types — will be protected in 260 acres of land adjacent to farms, roads and homes spanning a southeastern section of the tropical island.

All of the protected parcels are part of the historical range of the small frog and support suitable habitat for the species' conservation, according to a statement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

The 3.3-inch-long frog, which has been protected as a threatened species since 1997, is endemic to the U.S. Caribbean territory. Deforestation and industrial development has destroyed much of the amphibian's natural habitat, conservationists say.

Tuesday's decision was in response to a 2003 lawsuit filed against the federal agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior by the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity.

In Puerto Rico and nearby islands, experts believe three of 17 known Eleutherodactylus species are extinct and seven or eight are declining.



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