Tomás Martínez Aguirre is our Segré EDGE Fellow working to ensure the long-term conservation of the El Rincon Stream Frog (Pleurodema somuncurense). In this blog, he introduces us to the work he is doing to conserve this Critically Endangered amphibian.
Tomás, alongside his team at the Iniciativa Meseta Salvaje (Wild Plateau Initiative), is working to mitigate threats faced by the El Rincon stream frog. In addition to this, they are developing a re-introduction programme of froglets that are bred in captivity.
Frogs aren’t always people’s favourite animals and are often overlooked when it comes to conservation efforts. For Tomás however, he is clear on his reasons for wanting to conserve his EDGE species:
“I am working with the El Rincon Stream Frog, a little frog from north Patagonia, Argentina. It’s listed as Critically Endangered because it only lives in thermal springs of the Valcheta stream, a really small area of 32 square kilometres. It’s important to ensure its survival, as it’s a signature species for the local community along with another species with the same characteristics – a little fish called the Naked Characin.”
The frog is certainly unique in terms of the habitat it occupies – found in thermal springs in the valleys of the Somuncura plateau in Argentina. As if that wasn’t special enough, the hot water from the springs, in Tomás’ opinion, contributed to the evolution of many wonderful species like the El Rincon stream frog!
During his first six months, Tomás’ project has seen many successes from reintroducing 50 froglets to a hot spring where the species had previously disappeared to establishing brand new reintroduction enclosures. As the species is of significance to the local population, Tomás has been actively engaged in outreach work, developing a workshop with Park Rangers to explain frog monitoring methods and holding recreational activities with children at local school to help them feel connected his EDGE species.
Tomás is hopeful for the future of his species:
“Restoration and reintroduction are the keystones for this project. Both activities are developing really well and quickly. The local community had been involved in the release of the froglets, with children naming some of them. This is crucial for the long-lasting conservation of the species.”
He notes too that he feels lucky to work in such wonderful surroundings in Northern Patagonia:
“The area is full of archaeological history. There is evidence of human activity everywhere, and in diverse forms: parapets, stone piles, arrowheads, throwing boulders, cave paintings, among others. Spending the night at this place makes you feel a way that is hard to describe. I sometimes imagine humans hunting guanacos in the Patagonian winters with no shelter but caves, building arrowheads every single day around the fire. It’s an overwhelming feeling. There is even a painting near a thermal spring of what I believe is tadpoles! Did these people have any bond with the El Rincon stream frog? These are the things I keep thinking about on the cold nights in the Somuncura Plateau.”
Tomás Martínez Aguirre has dedicated is whole career to the conservation of endangered amphibians and reptiles in his country, Argentina. He graduated from the Natural Science School of La Plata National University with a Bachelor’s degree in biology. He is working as a team member of the Wild Plateau Initiative supported by La Plata Museum, La Plata National University, the National Council of Science Research and Technology (CONICET), Felix de Azara Foundation, Amphibian Ark and Earth Foundation.
He focuses his conservation efforts on the protection of one of the most endangered frog species in Argentina, the El Rincon stream frog (Pleurodema somuncurense), which is listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This amazing species can be found only in a small fragmented area of barely 4 square kilometres at the thermal waters of the hot springs of Valcheta stream, where it faces several threats that are pushing it towards extinction.
Tomas has been awarded scholarships from the CONICET and the Interuniversity National Council (CIN) for research in ecology and reproductive biology of this poorly known species.
With the support of the Zoological Society of London through the EDGE Fellowship Programme, and Segre Foundation, Tomás is developing adaptative management actions and research to engage the local communities and government in order to improve the situation of this species, and bring it back from the brink of extinction.