Through proactive efforts, we hope to update the status of both Rhinoderma species in the field, assess the threats they face there, and preserve a piece of amphibian biodiversity through a captive breeding program in Chile. The ultimate goal of the captive breeding program will be reintroduction of the species to the wild at some point, given appropriate field conditions and approval from the Chilean government. The key is timely and coordinated action with in-country partners. Rather than simply collecting specimens to maintain and breed outside of the range country, our approach facilitates an in-country program, building facilities, training staff, and empowering local stakeholders. We believe empowered local stakeholders will sustain this program long into the future. Financial support has been used to buy key equipment, train staff in ex-situ breeding techniques, and perform rapid assessments of Rhinodermaís status and problems in the field.
The overall aim of this project is to facilitate an integrated program including: (1) ex situ breeding efforts in Chile and (2) in situ conservation work to preserve Darwinís frogs (Rhinoderma darwinii and R. rufum) through updates of population status, search for R. rufum, and monitoring of amphibian chytrid fungus (Bd). Working with both local partners in Chile and collaborating with specialists, Drs. Klaus Busse and Martha Crump, we have gathered a well balanced and effective team. In the long term, we would like to empower local stakeholders to protect Rhinoderma and other endemic Chilean amphibians. We also hope to create a comprehensive project that involves not only breeding and field components but also a platform for educating the public about amphibian conservation inside and outside of Chile (this website).
Staff from the Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) include Dr. Danté Fenolio and Robert Hill. They work directly with Dr. Mauricio Fabry Otte, Director of the National Zoo in Santiago (NZS) and lead veterinarian, Marcela Tirado Sepulveda (NZS), in coordinating and carrying out this project. American staff organize supplies and infrastructure being shipped to the facility in Santiago, along with on-site installation and training. They also coordinate training of Chilean staff (Veterinarian Marcela Tirado Sepulveda and Mr. Andres Charrier). Dr. Fenolio and Robert Hill have extensive experience in amphibian husbandry and breeding. Dr. Fabry has been in a leadership role in zoo conservation for years, with diverse conservation experience including flamingo and Andean condor conservation programs. Mr. Andres Charrier has extensive experience finding Rhinoderma in the field and thus will be involved in all in-country field work. Veterinarian Marcela Tirado Sepulveda will be directly involved with the husbandry and breeding of Rhinoderma at the NZS facility in Santiago. Drs. Busse and Crump are internationally recognized specialists with Rhinoderma and have been involved in studying the species in Chile since the 1960s and 1990s respectively. They will be important partners in field work. Drs. Fenolio and Busse have both bred R. darwinii in captivity. Their expertise with captive breeding will be essential to the success of this program.