Chile: a species of frogs saved in extremis from extinction

When the Loa frog was extirpated at the last minute from its natural habitat in northern Chile, only 14 individuals remained. Today, a rescue program for the species has produced at least 200 offspring.

“Today, we have great news for the global ecosystem”, welcomed the Minister of Housing and Urbanism, Felipe Ward, on Wednesday.

Among Chile’s most endangered species, the 14 loa frogs suffering from dehydration were rushed to the zoo in the capital, Santiago, in August.

They had been spotted in a small canal almost completely dried up in the town of Calama, in the north of the country, where 600 frogs had already died.

“We had to reproduce the exact water conditions in the north of our country to keep them alive,” said Alejandra Montalba, director of the national zoo.

Measuring only six centimeters and with webbed hind legs, the Loa frog (Telmatobius dankoi) is a microendemic species that originates from the wetlands near the Loa River, the longest in Chile.

Located in the world’s driest Atacama Desert, the frog’s natural habitat has suffered from human overexploitation and more than a decade of drought in the north of the country.

The plight of the Loa Frog is symptomatic of the environmental crisis the world is facing with the loss of a million species, Chilean authorities warned last year.

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