Poison Dart Frog Ranching

Poison Dart Frog Ranching

Poison Dart Frog Ranching

to Protect Rainforest and Alleviate Poverty

A Medium Sized Project (MSP)Application

from the International Finance Corporation (IFC)

to the Global Environment Facility(GEF)

March 2003



SectionPage No.

Project Summary

Project Description

Project Rationale & Objectives

Sustainable Frog Production Methods

International Market for Poison Dart Frogs

Frogs’ Welfare During Shipping and in Captivity

Globally-Significant Biodiversity Conservation

Highly Diverse Frog Habitat

Conservation Value of Project Sites

Ecological Significance of Poison Dart Frogs

Land Ownership Status

Baseline Situation

Continued Deforestation

Continued use of destructive agricultural practices.

No Ecological Education.

Limited Opportunities for Local Income Generation

No Frog Business.

No Frog-Related Ecotourism.

No Commercialization of other NTFPs.

Decline in Frog Population

Continued Frog Smuggling.

Persistent Barriers to Legal Exportation of Sustainably-Produced Frogs.

Frogs Threatened by Increased Climate Variability.

Missed Opportunities for Replication

Expected Project Outcomes

Forest Preservation

Poverty Alleviation

Conservation of Poison Dart Frogs

Related Outcomes

Project Activities

Business Support

Start-Up Advice and Ongoing Business Incubation

Frog Breeding Equipment and Operation

Collection Centers’ Equipment And Operation

Market Development

Education and Training

Local: Training for Frog Producers

Local: Educational Outreach in Peru

National: Training for INRENA and Customs Officials

Complementary Strategies for Forest Preservation

Conservation Specialists


Sustainable Farming


Replication With Other Frog Species

Replication With Other NTFPs

Replication in Other Countries for Commercial or Conservation Purposes

Monitoring and Evaluation

Project Management

Implementation Plan

Implementation Schedule

Business Support

Education and outreach

Project Management and Administration

Sustainability Analysis

Environmental Sustainability:

Social Sustainability:

Financial Sustainability:

Risk Assessment

Stakeholder Identification

Community Participation

Incremental Cost Assessment


Monitoring and Evaluation Plan



Annex 1: Globally-Significant Conservation Benefits

Annex 2: Summary of Business Plan for Frog Export Venture

Annex 3: Market Study

Customer Profile

The General Public


Pet Store Chains

Current United States Market

Current Prices

Current Competition and Market Leaders

Peruvian Poison Dart Frogs Market Advantages

Market Demand

Marketing and Selling Strategy

Annex 4: Focal Point Endorsement

Annex 5: Summary of Monitoring & Evaluation Plan

list of tables

Table 1: Priority 1 Conservation Zones linked to Frog Production Areas

Table 2: Summary of Project Outcomes and Indicators.

Table 3: Initial Capitalization and Ownership of Frog Export Venture

Table 4: Implementation Schedule

Table 5: Project Risks and Corresponding Mitigation Strategies.

Table 6: Current Market Price Survey Data**

Table 7: Major U.S. Poison Dart Frog Breeders

Table 8: Annual Viable Sales Figures

table of figures

Figure 1: Male frog with tadpoles………………………………………………………… .….6

Figure 2: Frog Breeding Vessel…………………………………………………………………6

Figure 3: Hobbyist with terrarium………………………………………………………… ….7

Figure 4: Geographic Scope of Frog Production Areas………………………………… . ….9

Figure 5: Recent Deforestation of Rare Frog Habitat………………………………………..11

Figure 6: Deforestation in Alto Cainarache Valley………………………………………….13

Figure 7: IFC & ASPRAVEP Meeting…………………………………………………….…..29

list of acronyms

ASPRAVEPAssociation of Producers of Poison Dart Frogs in Peru

CONAMConsejo Nacional del Ambiente

EBAEndemic Bird Areas

GEFGlobal Environment Facility

IFCInternational Finance Corporation

INRENANational Institute for Natural Resources

LCCLocal Collection Center

M&EMonitoring and Evaluation

NGONon Government Organization

NTFPNon-Timber Forest Product

RAPRapid Assessment Process

INIBICOInstitute for Research into the Biology of the Eastern Andes

ZIRAIntensive Zoocriadero with Artificial Ranching

Project Summary

1. Project name: Poison Dart Frog Ranching to Protect Rainforest and Alleviate Poverty / 2. GEF Implementing Agency: IFC (World Bank)
3. Country or countries in which the project is being implemented: Peru / 4. Country eligibility: Peru ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on June 7, 1993
5. GEF focal area(s): Biodiversity / 6. Operational program/Short-term measure: OP No. 3: Forest Ecosystems
  1. Project linkage to national priorities, action plans, and programs:
The project will help to achieve Peru's goals for biodiversity, which are articulated in the “Law on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity.” Specifically, the project will help to achieve the objectives of Articles 3 and 5, which state Peru’s desire to: (i) promote the economic development of Peru by encouraging greater involvement of the private sector in the sustainable use of biodiversity; (ii) foster education, information exchange, scientific research, and the development of human resources concerning biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components; and (iii) generate funding mechanisms in order to adequately manage biodiversity. The project is consistent with Peru’s National Strategy for Biological Diversity, which specifies the development of sustainable uses of biodiversity and scientific research as national priorities. The project is also consistent with Peru’s Strategic Biodiversity Guidelines for the Peruvian Amazon Basin which encourage research to monitor biodiversity in the Amazon. In addition, the project is consistent with Peru’s strategies for managing its forests (e.g., Plan de Acción Forestal y de Fauna 1990- 2000) and high priority biodiversity areas (FANPE-GTZ-INRENA).
Existing Peruvian legislation permits exportation of faunal species that are listed on CITES Appendix II if they are sustainably-produced via appropriately-managed zoocriaderos (breeding facilities). The Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (National Institute for Natural Resources, or INRENA) is highly supportive of this project and is expected to facilitate export permits in the near future. No GEF funds will be disbursed to the project sponsor until the initial export permits are in place.
8. GEF national operational focal point and date of country endorsement:
This project was endorsed by the GEF Operational Focal Point for Peru, Mr. Mariano Castro Sánchez-Moreno, Executive Secretary of the Consejo Nacional del Ambiente (CONAM) on October 4, 2001.
Project Objectives and Activities
9. Project Rationale and Objectives: / Indicators:
Goal: to protect rainforest and alleviate poverty in highly threatened sites in Peru
Objectives: to promote sustainable cultivation of poison dart frogs for export, so local people can earn a better living from conserving the forest than by cutting it down / 1. Local population increase their income due to frog sales
2. Decrease in deforestation at project sites
3. The business established via the MSP profitably exports poison dart frogs
10. Project Outcomes: / Indicators:
Biodiversity Preservation
At least 15,000 ha of rainforest is preserved from destructive practices / # of hectares conserved
Land preservation strategies in place for at least 6 communities through partnerships with INRENA or local NGOs / # of communities with land preservation strategies
Increased awareness of value of frogs/forest among at least 10,000 schoolchildren and 850 adults / # of schoolchildren instructed and # of adults trained
At least 20 INRENA officials will be fully aware of sustainable frog production methods and able to monitor sustainability of frog business's practices / # of INRENA staff trained
Decrease in slash-and-burn and other destructive agricultural practices among at least 250 campesino families / # of campesinos who abandon slash-and-burn practices
Poverty Alleviation
At least 250 campesino families bring their income to minimum wage via the frog business / # of campesinos reaching minimum wage via frog business
At least 100 campesinos earn minimum wage from local and international tourist visits to collection centers & project sites / # of campesinos who can earn minimum wage through local or foreign tourist visits
Conservation of Poison Dart Frogs
Populations of at least 60 Peruvian poison dart frog species will be stable or increasing / Population size of selected species and variants
Illegal smuggling of Peruvian poison dart frogs will be virtually eliminated / # of smugglers identified
Additional Project Benefits
Commercialization of additional NTFPs / # of feasibility studies carried out that lead to sustainable production of additional NTFPs
Sustainable frog production will be initiated in at least 2 other countries / # of new countries using ZIRA method for frog businesses or in-situ conservation purposes
Expertise about Peruvian amphibians and their habitat will be increased among at least 30 Peruvian academics / # of academics participating in joint seminars or research
11. Project Activities / Indicators:
1. Inventory of frogs and related biodiversity resources (status, threats, etc.) ($ 62,715)
2. Organizing, technical assistance and capacity building for local producers ($97,406)
3. Establishment frog production lots ($291,601)
4. Collection centers’ infrastructure, equipment and operation ($681,310)
5. Training and capacity building in national institutional counterparts ($24,190)
6. Market development and international media promotion ($137,405)
7. Model replication in other countries and with other NTFPs ($128,642)
8. Ecotourism and tourism development ($20,000)
9. Educational outreach ($31,620)
10. Project management and administration ($177,842)
11. Monitoring and evaluation of social, environmental and economic indicators ($80,000) / 1. Inventories, manuals and other documents issued.
2. Local producers organized in committees and trained.
3. Frog production lots established & operational
4. Collection centers operating and exporting
5. Technical staff at INRENA trained to monitor & supervise sustainable poison dart frog production
6. Annual sales of sustainably bred poison dart frogs & participation in frog trade associations/events
7. Poison dart frog community-based production model is replicated in other countries and with other NTFPs
8. # of tourists paying to visit poison dart frog attractions/tours
9. # of educational talks/seminars given
10. Timeliness & quality of quarterly reports to IFC; financial audits
11. Timeliness & quality of M&E reports
12. Estimated Budget (in US$):
Project Preparation:
GEF:$ 25,000 PDF-A
Co-financing:$ 39,000 World Bank “Innovation in the Marketplace” (cash)
TOTAL: $ 64,000
Project Implementation:
GEF:$ 788,540
Co-financing:$ 56,000 World Bank “Innovation in the Marketplace” (cash)
$ 272,732 Frog Export Business (cash)
$ 26,131 INIBICO (in kind)
$ 351,375 Curmi (87% cash; 13% in kind)
$ 186,264 Frog Producer Associations (in-kind)
$ 55,880 INRENA (Peruvian Government) (in kind)
$ 45,000 Distributors (cash)
TOTAL:$ 1,781,922
GRAND TOTAL: $ 1,845,922
Information on institution submitting project brief
  1. Information on project proposer: This proposal has been developed by a joint venture consisting of INIBICO and Curmi:
INIBICO is a nongovernmental organization specializing in the investigation, protection and management of poison dart frogs, other amphibians and reptiles, and fish in northeastern Peru. Located in the high jungle city of Tarapoto in the Department of San Martin, INIBICO has easy access to a variety of ecological zones from high cloud forest to the lowlands of the Amazon basin. INIBICO includes fishery biologists, herpetologists, botanists, ecologists, and agro-industrial engineers. INIBICO’s manager, Dipl. Biol. Rainer Schulte, is the world’s foremost expert in the biology and management of Peruvian and other poison dart frogs.
The frog export venture will receive accounting, financial management and marketing support from Curmi, a Peruvian NGO with a track record as a successful incubator of local “green” businesses. In the areas where the frog project will take place, Curmi has promoted agricultural projects to substitute slash-and-burn agriculture with permanent crops such as cocoa and hearts of palm. Curmi successfully managed the creation of local processing plants whose products are sold in national and international markets. Curmi has also executed educational projects, with an agricultural institute in Sisa as the main example.
14. Date of initial submission of project concept: October 9, 2001
Information to be completed by Implementing Agency:
15. Project identification number: 506393
  1. Implementing Agency contact person: Sam Keller, IFC Projects Officer,

  1. Project linkage to Implementing Agency program(s): IFC has provided support to various types of “biodiversity businesses”, which are commercial enterprises that help to conserve biodiversity. Either directly or through intermediaries, IFC has helped to finance ecotourism companies, organic agriculture companies, sustainable cocoa growers, a sustainable hearts-of-palm producer, a sustainable babassu producer, and a shade-grown coffee producer. The poison dart frog project adds some important new elements: it brings together tropical biologists (who know how to artificially enhance the forest’s productivity), business managers (who know how to run companies), and campesinos (who know how to sustainable harvest and conserve biodiversity resources if given the right opportunities) – and thereby offers hope of a new type of business that is able to generate profits from tropical forest without damaging it. In fact, the production technology is so effective and innovative that it can actually help to restore native frog populations in areas where they have been depleted. Thus, this project will make a valuable contribution to IFC’s portfolio of biodiversity-related investments – and to global efforts to find viable ways to monetize the economic value inherent in biodiversity in a manner that encourages conservation of biodiversity resources.

Project Description

Project Rationale & Objectives

Peru is one of the eight “mega-biodiverse” countries which together possess more than 70% of the world’s biodiversity. The country provides habitat for over 360 species of mammals, 1,700 species of birds, 20,000 species of flowering plants, 290 species of reptiles, and 250 species of amphibians. Many more species have yet to be discovered by the scientific community. Nonetheless, forests are being rapidly cleared throughout the country for logging, agriculture, and infrastructure development. Although many conservation projects are underway in Peru, they often lack adequate long-term funding. At the same time, many conservation practitioners find it difficult to generate revenues from the sustainable use of biodiversity. These difficulties arise in part because sustainable production methods are not known, markets are often hard to reach, start-up capital is lacking, good management capacity is hard to find in biodiversity-related sectors, and government institutions inadvertently create regulatory barriers to the sustainable use of biodiversity.

Despite these challenges, conservation practitioners in Peru (and around the world) are devoting considerable attention to finding viable ways to generate income from forests without destroying them. Recently, innovative research in Peru has shown that there exists a possibility to do so by sustainably breeding poison dart frogs (Epipedobates and Dendrobates) for export.[1] These beautiful frogs fetch $40-120 in steadily growing hobbyist markets in the United States, Europe and Japan.

This project will support the establishment of a business that will export frogs to hobbyists in North America, Europe, and Japan. This business – with expected annual revenues of about $300,000in Year 3 – will provide supplemental livelihoods to more than 250 campesinos. It will also provide them with an incentive for preserving over 15,000 hectares of tropical forest. And the sustainable breeding methods will sustain the populations of over 60 species of frogs.

In addition, this project will implement a strategic combination of complementary activities aimed at maximizing the long-term conservation-related benefits associated with the export business. First, it will provide agricultural assistance to participating campesinos (farmers) so they are able to move away from slash-and-burn agricultural methods. Second, it will provide ecological education to foster greater awareness among the participating campesinos and other stakeholders regarding the project’s conservation-related objectives. Third, it will establish a strategic partnership with a credible local ecotourism operator in order to create an additional revenue stream from tours of the project’s facilities and implementation sites. Finally, this project will help to strengthen the management of several protected areas because the export business will use some of its revenues to hire full-time conservation specialists, including forest rangers.

Sustainable Frog Production Methods

The project’s innovative frog[2] production methods are notable for several reasons: they only function in situ¸ thereby encouraging the protection of local ecosystems; they create a surplus population that can be harvested while leaving the original population intact; and they are low-cost, low-tech, and easy to learn.

Rainer Schulte, the chief biologist for this MSP, invented these methods after years of meticulous study of the frogs’ natural breeding cycle. The female glues her eggs onto leaves located above the ground in trees. When the tadpoles hatch, the male puts them on his back and carries them to water, typically to a catchment in the crook of a leaf. Then, depending on the species, the tadpole feeds on mosquito larvae or unfertilized eggs laid for them as food by their mother. The limiting factor of the frogs’ reproduction is the number of suitable breeding sites. This provides the opportunity for expanding production through a simple intervention in the ecosystem which enables harvesting a ‘surplus’ population without harming the balance of the ecosystem.

The production enhancement method, which is the basis of the business model underpinning the project, is dubbed the ZIRA method. It consists of placing artificial breeding sites in trees in the frogs’ natural habitat. These artificial sites, which are simply plastic soft drink bottles cut in half and filled with water, greatly enhance breeding success: the frogs place their eggs in the artificial breeding sites. The ‘surplus’ of tadpoles thus created can be harvested from the bottles, put in grow-out cages on the forest floor and then exported as juvenile frogs.[3]

The impact of frog cultivation on the natural environment is negligible. The containers hardly cause any visual pollution because they quickly become overgrown with algae and moss. The management trails are also hardly visible because they are so narrow. Importantly, data from the first two years of a pilot frog breeding project in the Alto Cainarache Valley (upon which the proposed project is based) has shown that removing the “surplus” production of tadpoles from the forest does not affect the natural population: neither the original reproductors nor the natural offspring are touched or bothered during the production process. The proposed project will generate more scientific information on population dynamics and will fine tune the ZIRA method if necessary.