The Titicaca Water Frog (Telmatobius culeus) is endemic to the Lake Titicaca Basin in the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru. This critically endangered species, also known as Lake Titicaca Frog, is among the most threatened amphibian species of the world.
The reason for this is a serious population decline, estimated to be more than 80 percent over the last three generations, due to over-exploitation, habitat degradation, and the introduction of invasive, non-native fish species to Lake Titicaca.
A further potential threat to the survival of the Titicaca Water Frog looming on the horizon is the chytrid fungus which probably played a major role in amphibian die-offs in many areas.
Since 2008, Stiftung Artenschutz has been promoting species conservation measures for the Titicaca water frog. A first pilot study by the 'Asociación Armonía — BirdLife International' investigated the various causes for the decline of the species. The main goal was to establish baseline data required to assess the magnitude of current threats to the Titicaca water frog and to develop appropriate conservation strategies and actions on the Bolivian portion of Lake Titicaca. A follow-up project in 2011 included a monitoring program and environmental education for the local communities as well as support for the captive breeding program for the species.
In the last years, several episodes of mass mortality have been reported in the Titicaca water frog, e.g. in April 2015 thousands of frogs were found dead at the shore of the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca (Lago menor). Under the supervision of project manager Arturo Munoz, the 'Bolivian Amphibian Initiative' launched an emergency project, including both in situ and ex situ conservation measures which is supported by Stiftung Artenschutz.
The main objectives of this emergency project are:
- To coordinate a conservation strategy with the Bolivian government;
- To monitor the problems of the Titicaca water frog in the Lago menor;
- To improve the captive breeding program of the Titicaca water frog.