Date: 18thOctober, 18.30 hrs.

Location: República 239, University Andres Bello, Santiago Chile.

The northern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma rufum) and the southern Darwin’s frog (R. darwinii) are the only known amphibian species in which males brood their offspring within their vocal sacs. This is a unique type of parental care among the nearly 8,000 described amphibian species of the world. The historical distribution of R. rufum extends along the Coastal Range of Chile from Zapallar (Valparaiso Region) to Ramadillas (Biobío Region), while the historical distribution of R. darwinii occupies an area involving both the Coastal Range and the Andes from Concepción (Biobío Region) to Aysén (Aysén Region), and includes an area of the Argentinian Andes in the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro. Unfortunately, no R. rufum individual has been recorded since 1981 and this species is currently categorized as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo © Claudio Soto Azat

Many historical populations of R. darwinii have disappeared during the last 40 years, but there are records on the current persistence of 66 local populations since 2000 in Chile and Argentina. However, these populations are generally small (<100 individuals), are highly isolated and presenting a high risk of extinction due to threats such as habitat loss and degradation, amphibian chytridiomycosis and climate change.  These have led to R. darwinii being categorized as Endangered by the IUCN Red List.

During the last 10 years there has been a growing interest in the research and conservation of both species of Darwin’s frogs. For instance, 75% of all ISI Web of Science publications of these species have been produced during the last decade, and in the case of R. darwinii long-term population monitoring and two captive breeding conservation programs have been initiated in Chile. For this reason, we believe that an adequate level of information and interest has been reached to start the strategic planning of activities aimed at the conservation of these species, in order to build an inclusive conservation strategy, involving all the relevant stakeholders and based on evidence in the decision-making process.

Following IUCN’s methodology of strategic species conservation planning, on September 2017 the development of the “Binational Conservation Strategy of Darwin’s frogs” (ECRD in Spanish) was kick-started with a Symposium in Santiago which was open to the public and gathered over 300 participants, with the contribution of national and international experts. During the same month there was a Relevant Stakeholder Workshop at Huilo Huilo Reserve, with the participation of 30 stakeholders representing governmental agencies, academia, NGOs and member of the public. On this occasion and subsequently, the stakeholders have actively contributed towards the elaboration of the strategy. The ECRD includes the status review of the genus Rhinoderma and the vision of the plan where both species of Darwin’s frogs are proposed as an emblem for the protection of the native forests of Chile and Argentina. The strategic planning is summarized in 38 actions, grouped into 12 objectives and 3 goals, which aim, until 2028: 1) to generate and synthesize key information on the biology, management and status of Rhinoderma populations, 2) to reduce the main threats to these species in order to facilitate the self sustaining nature of their populations, and 3) to provide the financial, legal and community support of the different actions of the ECRD. The strategy aims to guide and coordinate the collaborative efforts on the conservation of Darwin’s frogs for the next 10 years.