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Karl-Heinz Jungfer wants to save a poison frog from the aftermath of the Venezuelan gold rush.

Keeper

Karl-Heinz Jungfer

Species

Demonic Poison Frog

Region

Venezuela

Karl-Heinz Jungfer is a biology teacher. In his free time, he researches frogs in the rainforest and at home in southwest Germany.

Serious, not crazy

Should private citizens breed wild animals? Anyone who reads Karl-Heinz Jungfer’s story no longer asks that question, but an entirely different one: How can we convince more people to get involved in breeding wild animals?

“Crazy about frogs.” The title of the article that caught the eye of 12-year-old Karl-Heinz in an aquarium magazine now seems prophetic. He’d already been keeping reptiles for three years, he says, but the article introduced him to a new world. In the four decades since, his life has been filled – and fulfilled – with frogs. Some people might call him obsessed, even crazy, but the biology teacher is serious about his favorite subject. He’s especially fascinated by the amazing variety of strategies frogs use to successfully reproduce.

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Diversity in Family Planning

A life dedicated to frogs

Twenty-nine years ago, on his first trip to Latin America, he found three species that had never been described by scientists. Since then, he has made frog research his hobby, and as a private scholar he has described several new species and published multiple scientific papers. And “at least once a year I need to breathe rainforest air,” he says. In 1992 he spent nine months in Brazil so that he could observe how the tree frog Osteocephalus mutabor cares for its young. His other hobby—long-distance running—meant he had plenty of endurance for long jungle hikes.

Karl-Heinz’s Discoveries

In the crosshairs of goldminers

Even at home in the Swabian village Gaildorf, Karl-Heinz is surrounded by frogs. “Of course, they’re much easier to observe in a terrarium than in Amazonian treetops.” That is why he still has big plans for his terrarium room, where he now also wants to breed the Demonic Poison Frog for Citizen Conservation.
This small poison dart frog lives only on a single mountain plateau in Venezuela. It is extremely vulnerable, both because of the political instability in the country and because of gold deposits in the mountain. The fragile habitat of the frog is in danger of being destroyed by gold mining operations—not known for their environmental sensitivity.

“The Demonic Poison Frog is is truly unique, the only example of its genus, and an unusual strand in the evolution of poison dart frogs.”

Unique in Evolution

That would be a tragic loss. The frog “is truly unique, the only example of its genus, and an unusual strand in the evolution of poison dart frogs,” with largely unknown reproductive habits. Karl-Heinz would like to discover the frog’s reproductive secrets—and help make it possible to raise the frog in captivity. “Citizen Conservation is the perfect chance to show that private citizens can play a role in the protection and preservation of species they care about. I want to contribute to that!”

Demonic Poison Frog

Minyobates steyermarki

In the lost world: a small frog lives on a mesa in Venezuela – a true rarity among the other brightly colored poison dart frogs, with no close relatives. Gold mining could destroy it soon.

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