Conservation Program for Darwin's Frog

To breed and monitor Darwin's frogs in Chile


Darwin's frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) is an endangered native amphibian species known worldwide for its particular reproductive strategy. This project is part of WAZA's "The Year of the Frog" campaign to address the global decline in this group of animals. A breeding station for this species was built at the National Zoo in 2008; in early 2009, the first individuals were incorporated into the reproduction centre. Captive breeding is seen as an important tool to recover populations of endangered species, especially amphibians that are facing a systematic population decline.


Flagship species within the 57 species of amphibians that inhabit Chile were considered for this project. The first is undoubtedly the most charismatic – Darwin's frog. Darwin's frog is an endemic species of the temperate rainforest of Chile and Argentina. It has the distinction of being one of the few species of frogs that performs parental care, which makes Darwin's frog a rare species among amphibians. This care consists of the male housing the fertilised eggs in his vocal sac, spitting them out once they have fully developed. The abundance of this species has declined over the past 20 years, especially in its northern distribution. There also has been work done in searching for the other species of the same genus, Rhinoderma rufum, which it is believed to have gone extinct, since there have been no sightings in the last 20 years.


The National Zoo is working with the San Antonio Zoo (USA), creating the first Center for Reproduction of Endangered Chilean Amphibians in Santiago, Chile. The San Antonio Zoo collaborates by training staff and donating equipment for the centre. This is intended to contribute to the conservation of these species, providing ex situ breeding and in situ research. This will be achieved by making captures of individuals for captive breeding and diagnosis of chytrid fungus, one of the main causes of the decline in amphibians worldwide.


The study will generate enough data to propose a management plan for these species and also recommendations for future monitoring of populations. This will assess their current conservation problem and provide essential information for making decisions about the future of Darwin's frog.


WAZA Conservation Project 15007 is implemented by the Zoológico Nacional de Chile, with support provided by San Antonio Zoo.




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  • Darwin's Frog Conservation

    Darwin's Frog Conservation

    (1) © Guillermo Cubillos, (2) - (4) © Dante Fenolio