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Claudio Soto-Azat: Searching for Darwin’s Frogs

Since 2004 Claudio has been involved in animal conservation, working in different projects focused on endangered mammals such as the southern river otter (Lontra provocax), marine otter (Lontra felina), Darwin’s fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes). Here he tells us about his most recent, and perhaps most threatened species yet.

Name: Claudio Soto-Azat

Habitat: Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii)

Location: Southern Chile and Argentina

Twitter: @

Bio: I have been involved in the protection and conservation of Darwin’s frogs of Chile; as part as a partnership with the Zoological Society of London we have started expeditions in search of the Northern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma rufum, EDGE #46). The other related species, the Southern Darwin’s frog (R. darwinii, EDGE #545), was named in honour of Charles Darwin, who found this frog during his epic voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle in February 1835, near the city of Valdivia.

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Research Site:

I work in a vast area of central, south and southern Chile and Argentina. The area I work over covers 1,250 km in length. Therefore transportation and long driving sessions are a rule.

Central and Northern areas are not tough, and they were characterized naturally by a temperate beech forest, however nowadays this area has had a huge impact from cities, agriculture and the forestry industry, which has drastically modified the environment.

South of Valdivia (Southern Chile), the forest gets very humid and cold, roads get very dirty and natural environments still dominate.

Can you tell us about your target species?

I work on the conservation of Darwin’s frog. They are infact two species, the Northern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma rufum) and the Southern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoerma darwinii).

The first lives in the coastal range of Central and South Chile. The second inhabits the South and Argentina in both coastal areas and in the Andes. These are poorly known species and their populations have dramatically fallen in the last decades.

Even worse, R. rufum has not been seen since 1978 and habitat destruction has been the most obvious cause of this possible extinction. Some populations of R. darwinii still persist in Southern Chile, where environment conditions are tough.

Therefore, in our spirit to understand and conserve these species, we undertake expeditions to record and monitor surviving populations.

ABOVE LEFT: The southern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) which appears to have undergone significant decline. ABOVE RIGHT: The southern Darwin’s frog exhibiting some of the many different shades of coloration.
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Challenges and Highlights:

Especially in Southern Chile, there are the most beautiful landscapes. If you have a sunny day (very exceptionally), you may begin to think everything makes sense.

The vast majority of the time, conditions in Southern Chile are very tough.

Lots of rain, sometimes spending a long time in tents, not having regular access to showers, toilets or comfortable place to sleep after a long days work.

ABOVE: The southern Darwin’s frog (Rhinoderma darwinii) which appears to have undergone significant decline.
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1) Never go in winter, you are not going be able to do anything! (Roads closed, tons of rain and snow, very cold).

2) Go in summer, but takes lots of clothes with you. Even when it is hot during the day, at night the cold goes deep into the bones.

3) Even though Chile is a safe country, we have a problem with stray dogs, you will see them everywhere. Sometimes at night they will fiercely defend their territories and houses where they live.

4) Southern Chile doesn’t have road continuity. Therefore you have to take ferries or pass through Argentina. The first option is quicker, but very busy in summer, make plans in advance.

5) Don’t give up. So far we have been unsuccessful in finding the Northern Darwin’s frog, but we will continue our efforts.

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