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Recovering the critically endangered El Rincon stream frog

Trapped and isolated on a Patagonian plateau

High on an isolated plateau in Argentinian Patagonia lives a species of critically endangered frog. Like all amphibians, El Rincon stream frogs are vulnerable to many threats, but with just a handful of isolated populations remaining in the wild, these frogs need our attention and help right now.

Over the last four decades, invasive rainbow trout numbers have been increasing, and their range is growing. Rainbow trout are aggressive predators and now they’re so numerous that they’ve cornered the remaining frogs to the hot springs of the Valcheta stream headwaters, limiting their range to just two square kilometres.

Even in this restricted area where the frogs should be safe, they face yet another threat. Cattle, kept by locals, graze and trample the banks of the stream, destroying the frogs’ habitat. Their damage has already caused several local extinctions and contributed to the decline of the species.

Securing habitat for El Rincon stream frog (credit: Melina Velasco).

Restoration efforts for El Rincon

With help from PTES, the Wild Plateau Initiative has the ambitious goal of doubling the range and population of El Rincon stream frogs. It’s an aspirational target but the team, led by Federico Kacoliris, is dedicated and driven. Firstly, they aim to remove the invasive trout from a section downstream to increase the frogs’ safe habitat. Downstream they’ll install fish barriers, made from wire mesh and gravel, which will stop the trout expanding back again.

Another challenge is to increase the quality of breeding habitat by impeding the access of livestock and restoring native vegetation. Erecting fencing around the hot springs will ensure the cattle cannot get close and damage the water’s edge again. Once these known frog populations are safe, Fede and the team will then set about re-establishing extinct subpopulations of El Rincon stream frog in other restored habitats. Working with, and raising awareness among, the local community means that these tiny frogs have a real chance of a secure future, high up on their Patagonian plateau.

Reintroducing frogs in restored habitat (credit: Melina Velasco).

We want to give the El Rincon stream frog a brighter future; with your help we can make a difference.

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