The 2014 Golden Frog Festival: Saving a National Treasure

HIGHLIGHTS

Participants: 2000

Volunteers: 80

School Groups: 13 school groups/ 300 students

Teacher  Workshops: 3/ 70 participants

 

MEDIA COVERAGE

Radio/TV Spots: 10

News Articles: 7

Media Websites: 3

In August the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and partners celebrated its fourth annual Golden Frog Festival. The festival, consisting of various events held throughout Panama, calls local and global attention to the ecological and cultural value of the Panamanian golden frog and global amphibiandeclines. A major highlight of the festival was the opening of Fabulous Frogs of Panama, a new exhibit at Punta Culebra Nature Center featuring some of the world’s most beautiful, and endangered, frog species.

The festival kicked off on August 4 with a series of teacher workshops in El Valle de Anton led by Smithsonian Education Specialist Lidia Valencia and Peace Corps Response Volunteer Hannah Arney. Seventy teachers attended three workshop to learn about the new curriculum “Fabulous Frogs of Panama, which provides educational activities for use in teaching their students about amphibian biodiversity and conservation.

 

"Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was  practical and easy to apply to any grade level." Quote from a teacher who participated in the workshop

“Congratulations on this workshop that offered us greater knowledge of nature and science. The workshop was practical and easy to apply to any grade level.” ~ workshop participant

 

PARC scientists Jorge Guerrel and Rigoberto Diaz introduced the festival on the Panamanian national lottery highlighting the importance of the golden frog and encouraging Panamanians to help conserve amphibians. Later that evening, the first Science in the City public talk was held at the Rana Dorada Pub. The event, held at one of our main sponsor’s venues, featured PARC scientist Jorge Guerrel and indigenous artisian Lanky Cheucarama. The pub talk was a vibrant mix of indigenous culture, conservation, education, and superb food & drinks!

 

Punta Culebra Nature Center held its soft opening of the new exhibit, “Fabulous Frogs of Panama.”  Sharon Ryan, public programs director at STRI, Matthew Larsen, STRI director, and Sylvia Cesaratto, the Canadian Ambassador for Panama, spoke about the importance of amphibians as national, cultural and biological treasures before inviting participants to visit the new exhibit.

The second Science in the City talk was held in the historic district of Casco Antiguo at the American Trade Hotel. Sharon Ryan, STRI’s director of public programs, and Brian Gratwicke, lead conservation biologist for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, talked about the PARC ‘s amphibian research, rescue and education programs.

 La Tribu finalized their performance by inviting a group of local school children to make an oath to live in harmony with the amphibians.

Performance by La Tribu

Throughout the day many people also contributed to a collective mural with the art & design studio La Tienda De Remedios

 The weekend was jam-packed with events and activities for families and frog enthusiasts. On Saturday, August 16, El Valle de Anton, the community where the PARC project began, held a family day to promote golden frog conservation. Local businesses and community groups supported the events – which included a performance by acrobatic group La Tribu, and a variety of fund and educational activities.  An estimated 500 people, mostly children, attended the event.

On Sunday August 17th, the Punta Culebra Nature Center hosted a frog themed family day to celebrate the launch of their new exhibit. The day’s events included face painting, informational presentations by STRI scientists, and frog themed games. The Rana Dorada food truck also came out to sell their delicious hamburgers and tacos.  La Tribu reprised their presentation from El Valle, and taught visitors about the importance of taking care of frogs and their habitat.

 

 

The final event of the 2014 Golden Frog Festival was a 5K/15K walk/race held in El Valle de Anton. This was the first trail walk/run race in Panama focused on raising awareness about wildlife conservation. Participants went through trails surrounding the beautiful Hotel Campestre while spectators, families, and children all watched in support.

 

Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Golden frog saving a life at the race in El Valle

Special thanks to our sponsors:

towerbank-logo-glow ATH logo la_rana_dorada_logo2

And our volunteers and collaborators

 

Post by Dara Wilson, Media and Outreach Volunteer, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

New education tab launched!

fabulosas ranas cover

Lots of exciting things are happening with amphibian education here in Panama! The brand new exhibit “Fabulous Frogs of Panama” is open at Punta Culebra Nature Center on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama. In conjunction with this exhibit the Punta Culebra staff and I have designed a whole new curriculum of activities to do with visiting school groups.  The curriculum is a product of collaboration by Smithsonian educators, PARC scientists, and myself. Thanks to Catherine de Rivera and the rest of her wonderful group from Portland State University we received training on inquiry-based learning techniques, and we are incorporating these methods in our brand new amphibian curriculum. It includes activities such as a dichotomous key to help students learn to identify amphibians, strategies that amphibians use to avoid predation, the frog life cycle, and the effects of chytrid fungus on amphibian skin. We have published a version of this curriculum right here on amphibianrescue.org, under the brand new education tab.  Coming soon we will also include on the education tab a virtual tour of the exhibit, videos, and other bilingual materials to be utilized by educators.  So stay tuned for exciting updates to this section of the website!

By Hannah Arney, Peace Corps Response Volunteer, Science and Biodiversity Curriculum Specialist, Punta Culebra Nature Center

Calling all creative thinkers: Convocation of Frog Art

We invite you to submit your own version of the frog template for the 2014 Golden Frog Festival: Saving a National Treasure. The Golden Frog is Panama’s cultural, biological, and national icon. In celebration of the frog and in the spirit of amphibian rescue and conservation, we want to showcase Panamanian pride and creativity with this convocation of Golden Frog themed art!

RD_ARTE_RANATICOS

MAKE YOUR OWN VERSION OR USE OUR TEMPLATES

Draw, color, sculpt, construct, distort…

The only requirement is that your art reflects the original image of the golden frog template in some way. Whatever you imagine will work!

Make it and share it

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 1

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 2

Click to download amphibian coloring sheet 3

Save the file as a high-resolution PDF or JPG image. There is no limit to the number of pieces you can submit.

When your work is complete tweet us your photo at:
#ranaticos

All of the finished pieces will be shown on the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s facebook page

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR SUBMISSIONS!

Panamanian Golden Frog celebrations 2014

The 2014 Panamanian Golden Frog celebrations will be held in Panama City and El Valle de Anton. The festival, now in its fourth year, celebrates the iconic Panamanian Golden frog while highlighting the amphibian’s unique, cultural role in Panama’s history. Communities across the country will engage in activities and events in hopes of preserving Panama’s national treasure.

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The festival, scheduled to be held August 9-17, 2014, kicks off with a series of instructor workshops for five schools in El Valle de Antón. Teachers will introduce a new amphibian curriculum and Clubes de Ranas (Frog Clubs) will be launched in the schools. Shortly afterwards, the Punta Culebra Nature Center will feature new educational activities promoting frog conservation in 24 school groups, that’s over 600 students!

Adults have no need to despair; schoolchildren will not be the only ones having fun during the festival. There are several events planned for adults and professionals, including talks with STRI scientists, a performance by the theatrical group “Tribu,” and a demonstration by a very talented indigenous artisan who specializes in frog sculpturing.

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Some events to look forward to include the Ciencia en la Ciudad (Science in the City) talks held by two of the proud sponsors for the festival. One talk will be held in the historic district of Casco Viejo at the American Trade Hotel and another talk will be at the Rana Dorada Restaurant.

10466983_10154412450515402_4177462776396443381_oPerhaps the most exciting event will be the launch of a new amphibian exhibit and education program at the Punta Culebra Nature Center! STRI is very pleased to coincide this year’s festival with the launch of the new exhibit, “The Fabulous Frogs of Panama.” The amphibian exhibit features several species of frogs and toads found in Panama. Ribbon cutting ceremonies are scheduled on August 14, 2014 the National Golden Frog holiday.

Finally, for the runners out there on August 24th we have a 5K / 15 K trail run in El Valle de Anton.

10393545_711556335581382_2018232539730959374_nFestival coordinators expect the festival to attract over 8000 participants this year. So make sure you are there to experience the events for Panama’s national cultural and biological treasure!

Keep up to date with our event page on facebook

Written by Dara Wilson

School kids hop to it & save frogs!

IMG_1110Jumping from the “Lemur Frog Leap” station to the “Robber Frog Romp”, bouncing between the “Harlequin Frog Hop” to “Toad Mountain Tiddlywinks” and topping the afternoon off with “Golden Frog Gallop” sack races, elementary students at the American School of The Hague (ASH) helped give amphibian research a leg-up last week and made conservation fun! Each student who participated in the Hop To It! event donated 5 Euros to Panama’s Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. With their contribution, young conservationists earned a ticket into the frog-themed field day where they could move between six stations that focused on moving their bodies like frogs.

IMG_1103Students in grades 1-4 at ASH have been celebrating the “Year of the Frog” in their science lab during the 2013-14 school year. In science class, students learned about what makes amphibians unique and fragile critters. Young scientists then invited their families to attend an interactive exhibit where they could explore hands-on activities, view photographs of rainforest frogs, try to match calls of frogs to their makers, as well as share their knowledge of amphibians with their parents. The conservation section of the exhibit focused on the international epidemic of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) that is negatively impacting amphibian populations worldwide. Students at ASH come from 74 different countries and many kids were surprised to hear that frogs from the canals of The Netherlands to waterways in their home countries are all getting sick from this same mysterious fungus.

Last Wednesday, as students happily hopped their way to an 830 Euro ($1123.00) contribution towards research that will help to fight the devastating impacts of chytrid, one 4th grader summed it up “Kids like frogs and we want them to stick around. If we need to hop a little to help them, we’ll do it!”

by Simone Welch, teacher and former volunteer with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Researchers develop new method to test an amphibian’s susceptibility to the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus.

This new method could help us to test out new probiotic therapies and predict a captive-bred frog's survival from exposure to chytrid fungus, without ever having to expose them to it.

This new method could help us to test out new probiotic therapies. It can predict a captive-bred frog’s survival from exposure to chytrid fungus, without ever having to expose them to it experimentally.

Researchers at the University of Boulder Colorado, University of Zurich and Copenhagen University have developed a new method to predict how susceptible an amphibian is to a frog-killing fungus wiping out amphibians all over the world. The test looks at the antifungal properties of skin mucus that contains skin bacteria and chemicals secreted by the frog itself. Together the interactions between the skin bacteria and chemical secreted from glands on the frog skin are the frog’s first line of defense against skin disease.

Their paper, just published in PLOS One, sampled 8,500 frogs across Europe. They found that antifungal properties of the mucus were related to the prevalence of amphibian chytrid infection in natural populations. They found that when they experimentally exposed frogs to the chytrid fungus in a lab that they could predict survival of frogs based on an independent mucus sample. The researchers also found that when they added beneficial skin bacteria to the frogs that the anti-fungal properties of the skin were improved.

This study may help us to develop tools that we could use to reintroduce frogs back into areas affected by the frog-killing fungus, including Panama. “We have all these amphibians in captivity now, like the golden frog in Panama, a really beautiful species that is now extinct in the wild,” said Douglas Woodhams, a postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder and lead author of the paper. “We want to be able to reintroduce them, but the pathogen that attacked them is still out there,” he said. “Now we can determine what probiotic treatment might work best to protect the frogs without infecting them with the pathogen and seeing how many die.”

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi/10.1371/journal.pone.0096375

Studying behavior and hormones to improve amphibian care

Shawna_CikanekBefore beginning my research at the Smithsonian, I knew surprisingly little about the status of the world’s amphibians. I was fortunate to be awarded an internship through Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine based at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, VA. Once I arrived in Front Royal, I learned quickly about the plight of amphibians around the globe and I remember listening in awe when I was first told about the Amphibian Arks in Gamboa and El Valle in Panama and how they hold the last remaining individuals of some of Panama’s most precious amphibian species. They had been brought into these assurance colonies because of the threat of a devastating fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that is responsible for the disappearance of many species around the world. Initially, the harlequin frogs in the Amphibian Arks in Panama were housed individually, because when placed together keepers observed that males would fight and they were worried the fighting would unduly stress these precious animals. However, this quickly led to a space shortage as the amphibian ark filled up. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, which helps coordinate the Species Survival Plan for Panamanian Golden frogs in the USA, suggested that we group the animals together in same-sex groups. They noted that this was working out just fine for frogs reared in captivity, but we wanted to evaluate whether wild-collected harlequin frogs would adapt to this group-housing situation.

Ethogram showing different types of aggressive interactions

Ethogram showing different types of aggressive interactions

My collaborators in Panama conducted a behavioral study of frogs placed in groups and monitored the number of aggressive interactions between the frogs, making sure that there were no injuries. Back in Front Royal, I worked with my colleagues in the endocrine labs to measure the amount of cortisol, a steroid hormone that the frog produces and can be detected in its poop. We did this by adapting existing stress hormone monitoring methods that the SCBI uses for many other wildlife species, like pandas and elephants. We found that, initially, the frogs housed together would interact aggressively towards one another. This aggression was mirrored by an elevation in stress hormones in the feces during the first week of the study. However, after the first 2 weeks, the frequency of aggressive behaviors declined dramatically, and the concentration of cortisol dropped back down to normal. Based on these results, we determined that wild caught harlequin frogs could be safely housed together in same-sex groups over the longer term, and this study helped us to greatly reduce space constraints in our ex-situ collection of amphibians. We hope that our new method may be useful to others wanting to evaluate husbandry issues in captive amphibian collections. Read the full paper in PLoS One here By Shawna Cikanek, Kansas State University

Puerto Rico’s Dia del Coqui

Common_CoquíFor five years, I have worked as the staff herpetologist at Las Casas de la Selva, a sustainable forestry project in Puerto Rico. I’ve also had the privilege of spending five months in Panama; some of that time was spent working with PARC and I have noticed many similarities between Puerto Rico and Panama. Specifically, I have noticed how each country has a frog as a national and cultural symbol.

In Panama, everyone knows of the Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki), and when I was studying the folklore of Panama, I heard old stories about how the frog was good luck, and that people used to believe that it turned to gold when it died. Nowadays, the Golden Frog is a symbol of Panama itself, and what it means to be Panamanian. Images of the Golden Frog adorn everything from lottery tickets to t-shirts to coffee mugs. Some of my friends in Panama have even gone so far as to get Golden Frog tattoos. And each year, thousands of people celebrate Golden Frog Day.

As an island, Puerto Rico has very few species of frogs, and 16 of the 18 native species belong to the genus Eleutherodactylus. This genus is referred to collectively as “Coquis”, although only two species make the distinctive “Ko-Kee” mating call that makes nighttime in Puerto Rico such a noisy affair. Of the 16 species of Coquis, 13 are listed by the IUCN as either Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. As with the Golden Frog in Panama, Coquis are a symbol of everything Puerto Rican. Mainland-born Puerto Ricans who return to the island respond to challenges about their Puerto Rican “authenticity” used to respond, “I’m as Puerto Rican as the Coqui”. Images of the Coqui show up on artistic murals, tourist kitch, and tattoos; there is even a “Coqui” brand of coffee and a “Coqui” car dealership!

But we are missing something in Puerto Rico- we have no equivalent to the “Dia de Rana Dorada”. After my time at PARC, including my opportunity in 2012 to help Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Ligo Diaz, and the rest of the staff plan and execute educational activities at the Summit Zoo, I decided to take the spirit of “Dia de Rana Dorada” back to Puerto Rico with me. The idea has been well-received, and the first “Dia del Coqui” will be a weekend-long festival from September 26th-28th, 2014. It will be held at the Jardin Botanical y Cultural William Miranda Marin in the centrally-located city of Caguas. Already, artisans, scientists, musicians, university students, historians, and public-works officials are coming together to make this event a success.

The intention of Dia del Coqui is to be a cultural celebration, but also an important learning tool to help the people of Puerto Rico know that the frogs that they have always shared the island with are in need of conservation. We hope that Dia del Coqui becomes a cultural mainstay in Puerto Rico, akin to Dia de Rana Dorada in Panama.

by  Norman Greenhawk  greenhawk81@gmail.com  www.facebook.com/diadelcoqui

Meet Angie Estrada: Amphibian Ambassador

We are a small part of a much larger global effort called the Amphibian Ark program working to coordinate and support global efforts to prevent amphibian extinctions. Learn more about other cool amphibian conservation work at the AArk ambassador’s page and like their Facebook page.