This species is known from the lowlands of the Golfo Dulce region of south-western Costa Rica, from 20-550 m asl (Savage 2002), and was recorded from close to the city of Dominical in the Provincia de Puntarenas of Costa Rica (Ryan 2002). It is expected to occur in parts of immediately adjacent south-western Panama. Its range, taken as a proxy for extent of occurrence (EOO), is estimated at 4,080 km
Habitat and Ecology
This is a diurnal, terrestrial species associated with streams in primary lowland moist and wet forests. Eggs are usually deposited on leaves above the ground; the male carries hatching larvae to small pools to complete their development (Savage 2002).
Several subpopulations occur in Costa Rica. This species typically occurs at low densities, but is regularly recorded. It is considered extremely rare in Dominical, Costa Rica, where it was last recorded in 2002. The subpopulations on Osa Peninsula seem to be isolated from one another. The population outside of Osa Peninsula is considered to be severely fragmented (G. Chaves and A. García pers. comm. 2013).
It is threatened by forest clearance for agricultural land and tree plantations. Water pollution caused by contamination from gold mining activities may also be a threat.
Much of the species' range is in three protected areas in Costa Rica, including Parque Nacional Corcovado. There is a need for strengthened management of these sites, and expanded protection to include other remnant forest patches in Costa Rica. Management practices that could allow a commercial, sustainable harvest of this species for the pet trade should be investigated, and a legal framework and enforcement is needed to address the illegal trade. It is listed on CITES Appendix II. Research is needed on population trends, current threats and natural history as well as monitoring of its subpopulations to assess the impact of the pet trade.
IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group & NatureServe 2013. Phyllobates vittatus. In: IUCN 2014