Houston Zoo receives AZA top honors for El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center


The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center is the only place in Panama where Panamanian golden frogs live. (Photo by: Lindsay Renick Mayer, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Five years ago, a small contingent of Houston Zoo staff arrived in the El Valle region of western-central Panama.  The group was made up of biologists, zoo keepers and members of the Zoo’s facilities department.  The diverse group had one common goal–create a facility on the grounds of the El Nispero Zoo that would serve as a living repository to prevent the extinction of the threatened amphibian species of El Valle.

Unfortunately, amphibian chytrid arrived in the region earlier than anticipated.  While construction of what would become the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, or EVACC, proceeded, temporary facilities were developed at a nearby hotel as a staging site for a rapid response rescue program.

In March of 2007, the off-exhibit portion of the facility was in operation and last year construction was finished on the exhibition portion of the facility.

On September 8 of this year, at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums 86th annual conference, the Houston Zoo received the AZA’s Top Honors 2010 International Conservation Award, the AZA’s highest level of recognition, for its leadership in establishing the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) in western-central Panama. 

The award carries the name of the Houston Zoo and recognizes the broad support for the effort that involved every area of the Zoo.  But EVACC could not have been realized without the support of more than a dozen contributing institutions including Amphibian Ark, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo, Buffalo Zoo, Cleveland


EVACC is the home to more than 60 species of frogs. (Photo by: Lindsay Renick Mayer, Smithsonian's National Zoo)

Metroparks Zoo, Dickerson Park Zoo, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, Oklahoma City Zoo, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Seneca Park Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Zoo Atlanta and Zoo New England.  The institutions provided staffing, technical, financial and logistical assistance in a number of phases including facilities (electrical and carpentry), graphics/signage, veterinary, husbandry and invertebrate rearing capabilities.

Today, the public exhibition area of EVACC, which opened in April of 2009, exhibits 23 ambassador species amongst an immersing mural depicting the mountainous cloud forest of El Valle. A center exhibit features Panamanian golden frogs and a stream habitat reminiscent of their natural home in Panama. In fact, this exhibit is the only place in the country where Panamanians can view their cultural icon.

The EVACC project has reached a wide and demographically varied global audience. It is estimated that at least 10 million people have heard about the global amphibian crisis through the context of EVACC.  It’s an enduring example of the impact of teamwork by dedicated zoo professionals.

Brian Hill, Houston Zoo

Monkey frog see, monkey frog do.

Waxy monkey frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii)

Waxy monkey frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii)

Cute Frog of the Week: September 27, 2010

“Waxy” because of the texture of their skin. “Monkey” because they walk instead of hop. Waxy monkey frogs, unlike other frogs that live on leaves near streams and rivers, have adapted to the requirements of life in trees. They rub themselves down with a waxy substance that they secrete through their skin glands to seal moisture in. They hunt only at night when the air temperature is lower. Waxy monkey frogs really do prefer life in the trees—they don’t even return to the ground for mating season. They attach their nests to a branch suspended over a stream so that the hatching tadpoles drop into the water below them. They have been described by many as calm and careful animals, ironically, considering that the primates they’re named after are known for their shenanigans! 

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Like what you see here? Then hop to it and text “FROG” to 20222 to give $5 to save a frog today! (Find the privacy policy here.)

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Keepers on the Front Lines

The five keepers for the rescue project at Summit Zoo (left to right): Nancy Fairchild, Rousmary Betancourt, Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama.

The five keepers for the rescue project at Summit Zoo (left to right): Nancy Fairchild, Rousmary Betancourt, Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama.

(Versión en Español)

Our next door neighbors are: a margay cat named Derek, a couple of Geoffroy’s tamarins and an ocelot. Across the street lives a troop of white face capuchins and every day we pass the parrots as they try to hit on us and say “hola,” no matter how many times we ignore them.

We are the keepers at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project at the Summit Municipal Park in Panama.

We take care of 191 frogs, from seven species, all of them native to Panama. Though each one of us has our own favorite frog—Kuno, Danielito, Chasky, James Bond and Survivor, for example—we make sure they all have everything they need to be happy and safe in their home at the zoo.

Our frogs need a lot of attention! We have to keep them healthy, clean and fed. Maybe it doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but each of those tasks takes a tremendous team effort, a high level of responsibility, tons of time and even a bit of intuition.

To ensure healthy frogs, first we treat the animals for chytridiomicosis (a skin disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd) once they get back from rescue missions in the mountains of eastern Panama. Chytridiomicosis is a fungal skin disease that’s been killing amphibians in the wild for more than two decades and that is spreading fast. Treatment days are awful! We often get nervous and anxious because we know that for some of the frogs it’ll be too late, but we’re relieved at the same time when the majority of them survive. After they are treated, the new frogs are ready to be part of our collection. The hard part really comes after treatment.

A chytrid-free frog does not automatically mean a healthy frog. Before and after they become part of our collection, the frogs can be underweight or have parasites. It is part of our job to hand feed them if necessary and sometimes to remove very active worms under their skin. We need to make sure the frogs take their medicine on time, with the correct dose and with proper follow-up. None of this would be possible without the help and supervision of a group of vets and keepers from other conservation centers and zoos who trained us and are patient enough to receive a lot of emails and phone calls from us.

Hyloscirtus colymba

One of the many frogs that keepers for the rescue project care for at Summit Zoo. (This is la loma tree frog, or Hyloscirtus colymba)

Frogs don’t need to take a bath to stay clean, though their environment needs to be cleaned regularly. Amphibians are very sensitive to changes in their habitat because of their permeable skin and the fact that during metamorphosis, they spend part of their life stages in both ecosystems: aquatic and terrestrial. These are some of the reasons why they are declining so rapidly in the wild. When permeable skin comes in contact with contaminated water or soil, frogs can get infected by Bd. In our control environment in the pod, we need to clean the frogs’ enclosures, especially the ones in quarantine. We change and clean all the tanks twice a week, change and clean their plants and leaves, spray water on the tanks that don’t have misting systems and remove the feces.

Last but not least: frogs need to eat! What do our frogs eat? We would need many blog posts to fully explain how we manage to keep alive a room full of two species of fruit flies, springtails and earthworms; and an even larger room with 95 plastic boxes full of crickets and a couple containers of superworms. The latest additions to the menu are a working colony of cockroaches and a brand new outdoors house for grasshoppers. You can say that these frogs are well fed…maybe too well. They eat so much that we’re even putting a few of them on a diet this week!

Summit keepers cups

Frogs are clearly always on the minds of the rescue project's keepers at Summit Zoo.

Did we mention that all of this is not enough to save the species? To do that, we need to breed them too. Reproduction is a very different story. We basically need to create the perfect scenario so the frogs can get in the mood. And getting them in the mood can take from two days (such as for the Toad Mountain harlequin frog, or Atelopus certus) or eight months (as is the case for La Loma leaf frogs, or Hyloscirtus colymba).

This is part of our daily work; we love it and we are very proud of it. Though some people call us “frog heroes,” we are proud to be part of a group of scientists, keepers, vets, volunteers and frog lovers who are trying to safe these beautiful and interesting animals all over the world.

–Angie Estrada, Nancy Fairchild, Rousmary Bethancourt, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama, keepers for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project at the Summit Zoo in Panama.

Cuidadores en lineas delanteras

The five keepers for the rescue project at Summit Zoo (left to right): Nancy Fairchild, Rousmary Betancour, Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama.

Los cuidadores del proyecto de rescate: Nancy Fairchild, Rousmary Betancour, Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama.

(Version in English)

Nuestros vecinos de al lado son: un tigrillo llamado Derek, una pareja de monos tití y un ocelote. En frente viven una tropa de monos cariblancos y sin importar las veces que caminemos frente a los loros de cresta roja tenemos que ignorar sus flirteos y sus incesantes “hola”.

Somos los cuidadores del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá en el Parque Municipal Summit en Panamá.

Nosotros cuidamos de 191 ranas, de siete especies diferentes, todas ellas nativas de Panamá. Y aunque cada uno de nosotros tiene su favorita-por ejemplo: Kuno, Danielito, Chasky, James Bond y Survivor-nos aseguramos que todas tengan todo lo que necesiten para ser  felices en su hogar en el zoológico.

¡Nuestras ranas necesitan de mucha atención! Es nuestro deber mantenerlas saludables, limpias y alimentadas. Quizás no parezca algo muy complicado, pero cada una de esas tareas requiere de un tremendo trabajo en equipo, un alto nivel de responsabilidad, toneladas de tiempo e incluso un poco de intuición.

Para asegurarnos que las ranas estén saludables, necesitamos primeramente tratar a los animales contra la quitridiomicosis (una enfermedad de la piel causad por Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis o también conocida como Bd) una vez regresan de las giras de rescate en las montañas del este de Panamá. La quitridiomicosis es una enfermedad infecciosa de la piel que ha causado el decline de poblaciones de anfibios por más de dos décadas y que se está dispersando demasiado rápido. ¡Los días de tratamiento son horribles! Muy a menudo nos sentimos ansiosos y nerviosos porque sabemos que para algunas ranas será demasiado tarde, pero al mismo tiempo nos sentimos aliviados al observar que la gran mayoría sobrevive. Después de ser tratadas, las ranas nuevas están listas para ser parte de nuestra colección. La parte mas difícil es realmente, después del tratamiento.

Hyloscirtus colymba

Uno de las ranas en Summit Zoo. (La rana hoja de la Loma, o Hyloscirtus colymba)

Una rana libre de quitrido no es una rana saludable. Antes y después que formen parte de nuestra colección, las ranas pueden presentar bajo peso o tener parásitos. Y es parte de nuestro trabajo el brindarles alimentación asistida de ser necesario y algunas veces debemos remover activos gusanos que se encuentran debajo de su piel. Tenemos asegurarnos que las ranas tomen a tiempo sus medicamentos, que la dosis sea la correcta y que se le de el seguimiento apropiado. Nada de lo anterior seria posible sin la  ayuda y supervisión de un grupo de veterinarios y cuidadores de otros centro de conservación y zoológicos quienes nos entrenan y están disponibles para recibir miles de emails y llamadas con cientos de preguntas.

Las ranas no necesitan de un baño para estar limpias, sin embargo el ambiente donde se encuentran debe permanecer regularmente limpio. Los anfibios son muy sensibles a cambios en su ambiente debido a su piel permeable y al hecho que durante la metamorfosis, pasan parte de su ciclo de vida en ambos ecosistemas: acuáticos y terrestres. Estas son alguna de las razones por las cuales los anfibios están desapareciendo en la naturaleza. Cuando la piel permeable entra en contacto con cuerpos de agua o suelo contaminado, las ranas pueden infectarse de Bd. dentro De nuestro ambiente controlado en el laboratorio, es necesario mantener limpios los contenedores de las ranas, especialmente aquellos que se encuentran en el área de cuarentena. Dos veces por semana, nos encargamos de cambiar y limpiar todos los tanques y plantas dentro de los mismos, mantener húmedo su interior con la ayuda de un aspersor y eliminar las heces que se encuentran en ellos.

Summit keepers cups

Las ranas son un parte grande de las vidas de los cuidadores del proyecto de rescate.

¡Por último pero no menos importante: las ranas tienen que comer! ¿Que comen nuestras ranas? Serán necesarios muchos otros “blogs” para explicarles como logramos mantener un cuarto con de dos especies diferentes de moscas de frutas, cajas con cientos de mínimos colembolos y lombrices de tierra. Además de un cuatro aun más grande con 95 cajas repletas de grillos domésticos y varios envases con larvas de escarabajos. La última adición al menú de las ranas es una colonia de cucarachas y una nueva casa al aire libre lista para albergar deliciosos saltamontes. Se podría decir que estas ranas están bien alimentadas…demasiado bien tal vez. Comen tan bien, que algunas iniciaron una estricta dieta esta semana!

¿Les mencionamos que todo esto no es suficiente para salvar a una especie? Para lograrlo, también debemos reproducirlas en cautiverio. La reproducción es una historia muy diferente. Básicamente hay que crear el escenario perfecto para que las ranas entren en ambiente. Y para lograr que las ranas se sientan cómodas y estén listas para reproducirse, puede pasar desde 2 días (como en el caso de el sapito arlequín de montaña) hasta 8 meses (como en el caso de la rana hoja de la Loma o H. colymba).

Todo esto es parte de nuestro trabajo diario; nos encanta y estamos muy orgullosos de ello. Aunque algunas personas nos han llamado “los héroes de las ranas” nos llena de orgullo formar parte de un grupo de científicos, cuidadores, veterinarios, voluntarios y amantes de las ranas quienes están haciendo un gran esfuerzo alrededor del mundo para salvar a estos hermosos e interesantes animales.

Angie Estrada, Jorge Guerrel, Lanky Cheucarama, Nancy Fairchild y Rousmary Betancour, los cuidadores del Proyecto de Rescate y Conservación de Anfibios de Panamá en el Parque Municipal Summit en Panamá.


Bob’s robber frog (Craugastor punctariolus)

Bob’s robber frog (Craugastor punctariolus)

Cute Frog of the Week: September 20, 2010

This frog really knows how to pose for the camera, huh? Commonly known as Bob’s robber frog, these little guys breed by direct development, which means that when Bob’s robber frogs are born, they pop out as kid frogs instead of baby tadpoles. These frogs are semi-aquatic species, so they get the best of the terrestrial and aquatic worlds, living in and near forest streams. But this flexibility has not helped them survive the impacts of development. Their favorite places are declining in size and quality in Panama, so much so that they’re considered endangered by the IUCN. 

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Like what you see here? Then hop to it and text “FROG” to 20222 to give $5 to save a frog today! (Find the privacy policy here.)

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

Jeff Coulter: Confessions of a Frog Volunteer

Jeff Coulter and frog

As a volunteer for the rescue project, Jeff Coulter helped both to care for frogs at Summit Zoo and to build the second rescue pod.

Author Ralph Charell once said: “Nobody exceeds his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations.” I think that nicely sums up my recent trip to Panama as a volunteer with the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project. To be candid, my expectations ranged from the mundane (constant cage cleaning) to the extravagant (finding a Panamanian golden frog in the wild). So by the time I got to Gamboa, I had no idea what to expect.

To try to share everything that I experienced in my eight days as a volunteer would fill up a number of blog posts, so I will try to stick with the highlights.

Building Frog Habitats: Sounds mundane and routine…is mundane and routine. And that’s how I thought about it at first.  But the more I thought about it, the more inspired I became. Sure it’s not the most exciting work around, but just about the time I thought I would hate doing it, I realized that I hated the fact that it needed to be done even more.  The project’s goal is to establish an amphibian ark where scientists can maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations of priority species. At one time Panama had more than two hundred species of frogs. Twenty-five of those have already gone extinct and as many as half of the rest are on the verge of extinction. If by hanging lights, and building cage bottoms I could play even a small role in helping keep a species from going extinct, I was more than willing to do whatever was necessary.

Spot Checks: The project has a number of employees who really give from the heart, but there is so much to do each day! On a couple of occasions I was able to pitch in and help them get through the tasks at hand. Each day every frog is visually checked, his or her cage is cleaned, and on certain days vitamins and minerals are provided to keep the frog healthy. This is in addition to the days when all the greenery in the habitats is checked or replaced. The job sounded easy at first. Spot the frog, look it over, clean out the frog poop. Sounds simple right?  Now factor in the fact that these frogs are great at hiding and jumping and it suddenly becomes a much more complicated task! It seemed like I usually used one hand for keeping the frog in the enclosure, one for cleaning and one on standby in case my first hand failed (which it did a couple of times). You never knew you had three hands until you are taking care of frogs!

Red-eyed tree frog

This red-eyed tree frog was among the frogs Jeff caught while volunteering in Panama.

Frogging: I was fortunate to be in Gamboa at the same time as project international coordinator, Dr. Brian Gratwicke, and Lindsay Renick Mayer, public affairs specialist for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and all around frog-lover. So several nights we went out frog hunting. Frog hunting in the Panamanian rainforest often involves tramping around in the middle of marshes at night, wearing a tiny head lamp and trying to track down the call of one frog in the middle of a full-scale frog opera. Did I mention I am afraid of snakes? I did think to mention it when we were ankle deep in a marsh and Brian’s sound advice was: “Then try not to step on one.”

I am an interpreter in the Amazonia Exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, so I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about frogs and enjoy talking to guests about them. There is a massive difference between pointing out frogs in a tank and chasing a one-inch frog through a marsh at night while your frogging team keeps yelling: “Don’t let it get away! Grab it, grab it!” It’s a whole new level of learning, let me tell you. It was an amazing opportunity to catch, photograph, learn about and release the frogs back into the wild. Along the way I learned more about their behaviors, calls and needs, which is all to the good.

Not just about frogs: When I first filled out my volunteer application I was convinced I would not be selected. I didn’t really have any animal husbandry background and my Spanish skills were limited, at best. What I learned is that the project needs people with all sorts of different skills–and skill levels–and that all you really have to have is a love of frogs. But the trip wasn’t just about frogs. It was also about people and cultures and sharing, learning and laughing. One evening after we finished working I was invited to visit the village of one of the project staff. Lanky is a member of the Wounaan tribe, a group of indigenous people who live along the Rio Chagres and it was a great honor to meet his family and see the combination of traditional lifestyle and forward thinking that this family group embraces.  Their thatched platform homes are very traditional, but use solar panels for lighting and electrical needs.

Jeff Coulter and caiman

During a nightly frogging expedition, Jeff seized the opportunity to hold this caiman.

All of the staff made me feel welcome and actively contributed to my somewhat improved Spanish. While we couldn’t always communicate in long sentences, we could always find a way to get our meaning across and a smile is a language unto itself!

I also learned a lot about other types of animals that live in Panama. The project is located at the Summit Botanical Garden, which houses a large number of animals native to Panama. I was able to see harpy eagles (the national bird), tamarins, ocelots, monkeys, coatis and more. Our frogging adventures introduced me to all sorts of other animals. 

Would I recommend it?
 How could I not? The phrase “life-changing” may sound cliché, but in this case is perfectly accurate. It’s an opportunity to make a real difference in a fun, beautiful, exciting and sometimes challenging environment!

Jeff Coulter is a volunteer at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Interested in volunteering for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project? Apply now!

Yeah, well guess what? I don’t want to kiss you either.

Smooth-Sided Toad (Bufo guttatus)

Smooth-sided toad (Bufo guttatus)

Cute Frog of the Week: September 13, 2010

Sure they may be unpopular with Disney princesses, but smooth-sided toads can have quite the effect on a heart. These toads’ parotid glands produce a toxin that, when ingested by predators, interferes with the predator’s heart and can cause it to fail. Smooth-sided toads also inflate their bodies as a form of defense.

Unlike frogs, toads have short limbs, dry skin and no teeth.

Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Like what you see here? Then hop to it and text “FROG” to 20222 to give $5 to save a frog today! (Find the privacy policy here.)

Every week the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project posts a new photo of a cute frog from anywhere in the world with an interesting, fun and unique story to tell. Be sure to check back every Monday for the latest addition.

It’s on: With “text FROG” we’re raising $50K for frogs

We Need You to help save frogs!

The price we pay every time a frog species goes extinct due to chytrid is beyond measure. The cost of saving frogs, however, is scant in comparison. But we need your help! That’s why we’ve launched a mobile giving campaign, providing an easy and convenient tool for you to give money to help us battle chytrid and provide the frogs a safe haven. Just pull out your cell phone and text “FROG” to 20222 to make a $5 donation to the rescue project.

Every $5 that comes in this way will go toward the project’s efforts, like our new goal of raising the $50,000 it takes to turn a shipping container into a rescue pod. These rescue pods are biosecure “arks” where we can care for frogs that would otherwise be hit hard by the wave of chytrid. Without this ark, we won’t have a safe place to keep the frogs—so help us raise the funds by spreading the word!

So what can your money help buy? Check it out:

$5: Three swab sticks used to test frogs for chytrid.
$5: A box of gloves to help ensure the cleanest and safest handling of the frogs.
$5: Pair of Crocs for keepers and visitors to change into to prevent bringing anything harmful into the biosecure rescue pods and areas where the frogs are kept.
$5: Small cricket container—caring for the frogs’ food is an important part of caring for the frogs.
$10: Four gallons of bleach, to keep the floor of the pod and quarantine rooms sterile.
$10: Large cricket container.
$10: Frog quarantine tank.
$15: Tub of yeast to feed fruit flies, which in turn are fed to the frogs.
$20: Calcium powder for frogs to keep them strong and healthy.
$20: Paper towel pack to help clean the tanks.
$30: 100 pounds of tilapia (fish food) to feed the crickets.
$30: Standard frog tank.
$150: Bottle of anti-fungal medication to treat the animals for chytrid.

Watch as our rescue pod fills up with frogs by following the progress of our $50K for Frogs campaign. And make sure to text “FROG” to 20222* to save a frog today! (You can text “FROG” to 20222 up to six times.)

MOBILE GIVING FOUNDATION*A one-time donation of $5.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Message & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to short code 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help. You can also find the privacy policy here.

Guppy Travels: Finis

Lindsay and frog

This little hourglass tree frog (Dendropsophus ebrecattus) was among my favorites that we caught in the rainforest.

One full week of being nothing but frog mad. When I close my eyes, it’s frogs that I see. When there’s a nearby chirp, it’s frogs that I hear. And when I think about conservation, it’s frogs that I feel. One full week clearly isn’t enough.

It’s enough, though, to give me a real sense of what, exactly, we are working so hard to conserve–the biodiversity, the beauty, the values and the hope. It isn’t a matter of “should” or “should not.” It’s a matter of “must.” That’s exactly what I told the guy at customs checking my passport upon my return to the States yesterday when he asked what I was doing in Panama. I’m sure he didn’t expect a lecture about why it’s important for us to save frogs–or for me to write down the website of this project–but I hope that he got the message.

I left Panama yesterday with an even stronger conviction, if that’s possible. I am relieved that there are those among us who are dedicated to biodiversity and to preserving what this beautiful planet has to offer. Those who understand the difference between using and abusing power. Amphibians have strong advocates and I will continue to help seek new recruits.

With that, I offer a few of my favorite frog memories from the week and am hopeful that others will be able to see these treasures in their natural habitats for years to come.

10. Frog talk. Every day I looked forward to lunchtime at Summit Zoo with the keepers; the project’s international coordinator, Brian Gratwicke; and project volunteer, Jeff Coulter. Although we didn’t all speak the same language, our shared passion carried us through.
9. Frog pit stops. No matter where we were driving to or from at night, Brian would roll his windows down to listen to the frogs. “We’re just going to make a quick pit stop. Is that okay?” he’d ask, even as Jeff and I were already jumping out of the car. Many grand excursions came out of these frog pit spots.
8. The frog whisperer. When Jeff interacted with the frogs in the wild, the animals that would leap out of my hands posed very nicely for photos in his. It was delightful to watch the delicate way he held the animals.

Brian and cane toad

The rescue project's international coordinator, Brian Gratwicke, shows some love for the cane toad (Bufo marinus).

7. Frog lovers’ heaven. One of the trip’s highlights was wandering around El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, peering into one tank and then another, excited each time to discover whichever species was housed there. I had only ever read about most of the species in captivity there.
6. Amplexus. One day after the keepers put a pair of Toad Mountain harlequin frogs (Atelopus certus) together in a beautiful breeding tank, we found the two animals in amplexus, moving the project ahead more quickly than expected.
5. Frog calls. Brian, Jeff and I spent many nights out in the rainforest collecting frogs for photo shoots the next morning. On one particularly successful night, one little frog decided to call late at night from our porch, keeping Brian awake and giggling (which, in turn, kept me awake and giggling).
4. Leaf litter toad mystery. One evening on a night quest we were stumped when we were suddenly surrounded by the calls of dozens, if not hundreds, of frogs. I recorded the call and played it back to get them going again so we could locate them. After about 30 minutes of looking in the trees and finding nothing, I found a leaf litter toad (Bufo typhonius alatus) on the ground. Turns out this very common species had tricked us into thinking they were in the trees.
3. Frog queen. That’s how I think about the female harlequin frog (Atelopus limosus) of the highland variation that may be the very last of her kind. Every day that I was at Summit, I made sure to check in on her. If the everyone was as gentle with and respectful of the natural world as the keepers were with her and all of the other frogs in the ark, the rescue project would never be necessary.
2. Smokey jungle frog. A frogging trip to Barro Colorado Island quickly turned stinky after I nabbed a very large smokey jungle frog. Unbeknownst to me, a primary mode of defense for smokey jungle frogs is to squawk loudly, rather like a chicken, and to emit a mucus that smells foul. I only discovered this as it unfolded, resulting in both a squawking frog and a squealing/swearing/panicked Lindsay.
1. Sierra Llorona frogs. One day we ventured to Sierra Llorona, which is the origin of the lowland variation of the harlequin frogs (Atelopus limosus) that we have in captivity at Summit. To see these animals in the wild was  thrilling–and to top that, the first frog that I caught was a female (an unusual find). We swabbed about 10 frogs to test for chytrid, but that female was my favorite. I set her free with the wish that she is chytrid free and ready to reproduce and that that will be the future for these animals–and the reality someday for all others we have in captivity.

Lindsay Renick Mayer, Smithsonian’s National Zoo