Cainarachi poison frog (Ameerega cainarachi)

Synonyms: Epipedobates ardens, Epipedobates cainarachi
Spanish: Rana Venenosa
GenusAmeerega (1)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (2).

The Cainarachi poison frog is a member of a group of small, New World frogs that are famed for their ability to secret powerful toxins from their skin. These remarkable frogs also have extravagant warning colourations and unique thick skin pads on the upperside of the digits (3) (4) (5). The fabulously vibrant Cainarachi poison frog is dark-red on the upperside, becoming black and bright blue and green on the limbs, with conspicuous yellow stripes extending down the side of the body. In common with other frogs in the Ameerega genus, the skin on the upperside is somewhat grainy and the first finger is noticeably elongated (6). The limbs are short, yet strong, and the Cainarachi poison frog is an agile climber and jumper (5).    

The Cainarachi poison frog is known only from the Cainarachi Valley in northern San Martin Department, Peru, where it is most abundant in the Huallaga Canyon, between 250 and 750 metres (1) (6). 

The Cainarachi poison frog is typically found near small streams in tropical, moist forest on rolling hills (1) (6). 

Renowned for the alkaloid-based toxic secretions from the skin, which are used to paralyse or kill potential predators, the vibrant colouration of the Cainarachi poison frog serves as a warning that it is poisonous. This toxicity is derived from its food, which consists mainly of insects (3) (5). 

The breeding behaviour of the Cainarachi poison frog is, as yet, undescribed. However, male poison frogs tend to be fiercely territorial and engage in competitive vocal displays, calling loudly from conspicuous positions to attract spectating females. Once paired up, the male leads the female to a moist, streamside cave where the small clutch of eggs is subsequently laid. The male then fertilises the eggs and may then guard them until the tadpoles are developed. Once hatched, the tadpoles are carried on the back of the male to a stream, where they are deposited, and over time the tadpoles will undergo metamorphosis to become adult frogs (3) (4) (5) (6).

Known from fewer than ten locations, the Cainarachi poison frog is extremely vulnerable to any destructive activities within its small range. However, unfortunately for this little-known species, much of its habitat is very close to human settlements, and forest conversion to coffee plantations, and firewood collecting and livestock grazing all threaten its habitat (1) (6). Thankfully however, there does not appear to be a demand for the Cainarachi poison frog in the international trade for pets, offering the species some sanctuary from the exploitation that has afflicted other rare amphibians (1) (8) (9). 

With such a small range, the survival of the Cainarachi poison frog is bound to the future management of its habitat. As this Vulnerable frog does not occur in any protected reserves, measures must be taken to safeguard the areas in which it is found (1). 

For information on amphibian conservation, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2010)
  2. CITES (May, 2010)
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, P.P. (2007) Frogs, Toads and Treefrogs. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
  5. AmphibiaWeb (May, 2010)
  6. (May, 2010)
  7. Tree of Life (May, 2010)
  8. Gascon, C., Collins, J.P. Moore, R.D., Church, D.R., McKay, J.E. and Mendelson III, J.R. (2007) Amphibian Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  9. TRAFFIC (May, 2010)