This Peruvian endemic occurs north of the Río Mayo and along the Río Huallaga and Rio Panpura, in the Regions of San Martín and Loreto, Peru. The northernmost subpopulations can be found along the Río Panapura, near Yurimaguas, while the northern spur of Cordillera Azul near Chazuta comprises the southernmost limit of its range (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011). There is one record (determined by gene sequencing) from Pongo de Manseriche, Loreto (Brown et al. 2011), however it requires further work to verify that it belongs to this species (J. Brown pers. comm. April 2017). For the purposes of this assessment, it is included within the distribution map but it is excluded from the extent of occurrence (EOO) calculation until its identity has been confirmed. The species has an altitudinal range of 180–1,200 m asl (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011). It is known from 13 geographical localities, representing fewer than 10 threat-defined locations (J. Brown pers. comm. July 2011), and its EOO is 16,048 km2.
Habitat and Ecology
It is a diurnal species found only in older secondary growth and primary wet forests where larger arboreal phytotelms are common (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011). This frog uses phytotelmata (water-holding plants) to breed, where females usually deposit 2-5 eggs ( J. Brown pers. comm. July 2011) and males will then guard and tend the eggs, and later transport and deposit larvae (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011). Some subpopulations are quite arboreal (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011). It is not known to occur in overly modified habitats (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011).
It appears to be rare or uncommonly seen within its range (J. Brown, E. Twomey and T. R. Kahn pers. comm. July 2011), although on occasion it can be locally abundant (J. Brown pers. comm. July 2011). The nominal morph, originally described by Boulenger in 1883, was thought to be possibly extinct due to rampant deforestation near the type locality of Yurimaguas, but was rediscovered in 2011 during fieldwork less than 20 km from the type locality (Brown et al. 2011). Surveys in 2006 in the northern extent of its range in the confluence of the Santiago-Marañón rivers (over five days) did not record any individuals of this species (J. Brown pers. comm. April 2017). Its global population is not considered to be severely fragmented.
Harvesting for the international pet trade is an important ongoing threat, and so is habitat loss. Due to its breeding ecology requirements, this species is more vulnerable to habitat destruction and degradation taking place within its range, which is caused by human settlements and agricultural activities of small scale farming for coffee and bananas mainly.
This species occurs in the Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area (J. Brown pers. comm. August 2011), although it is not known to what degree the area's boundaries are enforced. There is a management programme under way for the species (ASPRAVEP Project), and it is covered in Appendix II of CITES as Dendrobates fantasticus.
Given habitat loss outside the protected area and within the species' range, habitat protection should be prioritized. The implementation of conservation and management programmes is important, and legislation regulating trade and enforcement of this is needed.
Monitoring of harvest and trade levels for the pet trade is needed.
Red List Status
Near Threatened (NT)
Listed as Vulnerable because its extent of occurrence (EOO) is 16,048 km2, it occurs in fewer than 10 threat-defined locations and there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of habitat, as well as a decline in the population due to illegal harvesting.
The nominal form formerly referred to as Ranitomeya fantastica was found to be a complex of three closely related species: R. fantastica, R. benedicta and R. summersi (Brown et al. 2008). Ranitomeya fantastica is herein reassessed considering this change in taxonomic concept.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group 2018. Ranitomeya fantastica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T55182A89200743. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T55182A89200743.en .Downloaded on 23 February 2019