The Titicaca Water Frog (Telmatobius culeus) is the largest fully aquatic frog in the world. This unique species is endemic to Titicaca Lake, located at an altitude of 3,810 meters between Bolivia and Peru. This frog species is Critically Endangered because of an observed, severe population decline due to pollution, emerging diseases such as Chytridium, the introduction of exotic species, and overharvesting.
Although small die-offs of the species have occurred in prior years, in the beginning of 2015 in just a couple of days, massive mortalities of the species were observed (see here), in an area of more than 500 km2. This problem came out in different media showing how frogs and other animals were dying in the small side of the lake (see here)
But it seems is not the last time this happens, just some time ago once again something similar happenedm this time in the Peruvian side, for news related to the problem see latest news
This project is supported by Save our Species SOS, Amphibian Ark and STIFTUNG ARTENSCHUTZ. Our project goals are to better understand the situation of the species in the wild and to improve our captive breeding facilities so that this unique species may be reintroduced in the future.
The project will achieve this goal by investigating possible water contaminants, sediment pollutants, and chytrid fungus diseases.
Another goal of the project is the future reintroduction of the Titicaca water frog. The project will meet this goal by closely monitoring frog populations at different areas of the lake, as well as improving and expanding the existing captive breeding programme created in Bolivia.
The project aims to:
- Clarify information about the causes of death for the frogs during the die-off.
- Establish a protocol for monitoring the lake’s condition.
- Evaluate the die-off event’s impacts on the Titicaca water frog population.
Further, in order to support outreach and dissemination of results, the project focuses on connecting main stakeholders such as decision makers, local communities, municipal authorities, and the general public;
Finally the project aims to ensure that a secure population of the Titicaca Water Frog has been established in captivity while longer-term wild population monitoring is in place.
Please visit our blog for the last updates about the state of the Titicaca water frog and to see what are we doing (click here)
Probable causes of die-off of Telmatobius culeus at Lago Menor, Titicaca Lake, in April and May 2015
Based on the obtained data during the period of the massive die-offs and in the months after, we were able to see that water quality was one of the main causes of the massive deaths, with very high fluctuations of dissolved oxygen due to a bloom of green algae in the area and also the presence of sulphide components in the water originated by the organic pollution that is present in the lake. We also found other parameters that may be affecting the status of the frogs that need to be studied further. We reported Chytridium in the populations that died and for the first time we record for the species and in Bolivia the presence of Ranavirus. If it is not responsible for the massive deaths it may also be causing deaths in the area.
Water quality report
Post mortem report Puerto Perez
Post mortem report Pata Patani
Impacts of the die-off event in the Lago Menor of Lake Titicaca in April and May 2015
Based on data from nine months of monitoring the different populations of the lake since the massive deaths were observed, we provide information of the real and actual situation of the different populations of Telmatobius culeus and we also propose zone of the lake based in the situation of the populations. Zone 1 in good conditions, zone 2 species probably extinct, zone 3 species in very low numbers and zone 4 species in low numbers and possible not viable.
Captive assurance population of Telmatobius culeus
We established a new captive breeding facility able to hold more than hundred frogs of the species Telmatobius culeus. An amphibian husbandry guideline for the species and other material that will be very useful for future captive breeding programs for the species or similar has been created and is now available. 70 individuals of T. culeus
from two localities were collected for this new facility
Captive breeding report
Captive breeding facility model for Telmatobius culeus