Alejandro Arteaga
Alejandro explores the Chocó rainforest of Ecuador at night Author: David Jacome

Alejandro Arteaga


radiant reptiles

meet alejandro

Alejandro Arteaga has served as the President of Khamai Foundation since 2022. In addition to his career as biologist and photographer, Alejandro co-founded Tropical Herping, a tour agency that offers nature photography trips and herpetological tours throughout the World’s tropics. He is the author of three books and 25 scientific articles. He has discovered and described 29 new species to science and raised funds to save 106 hectares of rainforest in Ecuador. In 2021, Alejandro became a Discovery explorer through his project to rescue harlequin toads at the brink of extinction. Alejandro’s research is focused primarily on systematics and discovery of new species of tropical amphibians and reptiles, but also targets citizen-science projects for identifying species in the field, either visually using deep learning algorithms or genetically through real-time DNA barcoding. He is currently leading three projects: Reptiles of Ecuador book, Discovering the Luminous Lizards of Ecuador, and Creating Pitalala Reserve.

radiant reptiles
Nominated by: Rebecca Martin, FN'02
Class of 2024 Location Ecuador
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Author: Alejandro Arteaga

My perpetual source of motivation, the force that propels me into each day with enthusiasm, comprises three interconnected activities. Foremost is the act of discovering new species, a pursuit that holds paramount importance for me. Following closely is an irrepressible urge to preserve the enchanting beauty of the rainforests, and ultimately, to serve as an inspiration for aspiring young minds contemplating a path in conservation versus a more “lucrative” career.

I approach each day as if on a mission: to save and discover as many species as possible, all the while inspiring others to embark on a similar journey. Among my proudest achievements is the discovery of 29 species of reptiles and amphibians. Yet, the scope of individuals engaged in similar pursuits remains insufficient. The global community of taxonomists, specialists in new species discovery, is dwindling. Each year, fewer biologists opt for this discipline of discovery, choosing instead more abstract careers in the sciences. The primary reason? The incentives for such pursuits are nearly nonexistent.

“In Colombia, despite being a biodiversity hotspot, there is limited accessible information about its deep-time paleontological past. To address this gap, my team and I created an illustrated book that simplifies paleontological concepts, geological time, evolution, and climate change.”

- Alejandro Arteaga
Author: David Jacome

In my roles as CEO of the Khamai Foundation and founder of the Arteaga Species Discovery Fund, I aim to alter this trend. My goal is to expedite the pace of discovering new animals and to reward emerging taxonomists, particularly in tropical countries. The act of naming a new species presents a unique opportunity to address this challenge. By allowing donors to bid for the privilege of naming a new species, a symbolic yet impactful act, we can contribute to funding taxonomists’ research. A rough estimate posits that there are over 10 million species on the planet, and we have only scratched the surface in understanding them. My mission is to facilitate the discovery of as many species as possible, forging a path toward a richer understanding of our planet’s biodiversity.

never stop exploring