Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Mantellas on the Move

Black-eared Mantella froglets bred at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

An adult blue-legged Mantella. (Photo credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

A hop, skip, and a jump from Panama (well, a little farther than that), the Mantellas are fighting their own battle with potential extinction on an island off the coast of Africa. Madagascar is home to 16 species of the frogs, which are endemic to the country, but collection for pet trade and deforestation are threatening their survival.

We first told you about Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Mantella captive breeding program last fall. It was animal keeper Jeff Baughman’s goal to establish a breeding program for the frogs within the zoo community, and over the past year, he did just that. In a matter of weeks, Baughman’s first batch of 70 captive-bred blue-legged and black-eared Mantellas will be on the move to AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) zoos around the country.

People are drawn to the bright colors of the Mantella, colors that rival those of the more familiar poison dart frogs in Central and South America. However, only a handful of zoos in the U.S. have the endangered blue-legged and critically endangered black-eared species. Baughman started by bringing a collection from a trusted captive breeding source to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s off-exhibit Amphibian Conservation Center. He then created an environment similar to Madagascar’s less humid winter months, followed by increased humidity and daylight to simulate the rainy season. The females laid their eggs in March, and the end result is about 35 blue-legged and 35 black-eared Mantellas.

Chytrid has not yet spread to Madagascar, but if it does, the effect would be devastating. Because Mantella populations are so fragmented, they could easily be wiped out by the fungus. That’s why the Wildlife Conservation Society and other experts are looking at creating a facility in Madagascar, similar to the one in Panama.

What can you do to save frogs? If you’re buying them as pets, it’s important to find out where they came from. Make sure you get your frogs from a trusted captive breeding source and avoid buying frogs caught in the wild.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo guests are helping frogs, too. In 2008 – 2009, the zoo’s Quarters for Conservation program supported a conservation and research organization in helping protect Mantella frogs in Madagascar. With every visit this year, zoo guests can vote to provide funding to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Katie Borremans, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo