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Global Ideas

Darwin's frogs: Fighting for survival

Darwin's frogs, named after English naturalist Charles Darwin, are facing extinction. Conservationists in Chile and Europe are fighting for the tiny frog's survival.

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Watch: Saving a tiny frog

Project aim: Saving Darwin's frogs (Rhinoderma darwinii and Rhinoderma rufum), rare and tiny frogs found in Patagonia
Project implementation: The frogs are kept in a damp and cool environment in a breeding station in the city of Concepcion, Chile. To ensure the survival of the species a few dozen animals have been sent to European zoos. The project has been running since 2009
Biodiversity: Darwin's frogs are native to the forests of Chile and Argentina, which are home to a high number of endemic plant and animal species such as the Patagonian toad and chinchillas.

Darwin's frogs, named after Charles Darwin who encountered the unique amphibians in 1840 during his travels in Chile, are fighting for survival. These tiny frogs are just a few centimeters in size and have a unique way to care for their young. The males scoop up the eggs in their mouths where they are kept in the vocal sac until the tadpoles hatch. Then they are "coughed up." But these rather unusual animals are endangered thanks to habitat destruction and a kind of fungus deadly to amphibians known as Chytrid. Vet Carlos Barrientos Donoso is on a mission to save the little critters. At a breeding station in the city of Concepcion, Chile, Donoso looks after the frogs some of which are then sent to zoos in Europe, including in the German city of Leipzig, in an effort to ensure their survival.

A film by Katja Döhne

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