Setting the world afire.

Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis)
Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis)

Cute Frog of the Week: August 29, 2011

If this amphibian appears familiar to you, it’s probably because it is! You probably don’t recognize it from the pond down the road or the local forest, but from pet stores or even terrariums. The oriental fire-bellied toad has become a common fixture in pet stores across the world, but they are native to western areas of both China and Russia. But this toad has a surprise: despite the warts and bumps, it’s not considered a true toad! It is not part of the Bufonidae (or true toad) family and displays more aquatic behavior than the terrestrial toad.

This toad is listed as a species of least concern, possibly because it is resourceful on the whole. Oriental fire-bellied toads are known as an opportunistic species, commonly sharing close borders with human populations and are often found in agricultural areas or villages. Another reason these amphibians might be so successful is the wide variety in their diet. While they consume worms, mollusks, insects and a variety of aquatic invertebrates as adults, tadpoles and juveniles consume detritus, algae, fungi, plants and numerous small invertebrates.

Oriental fire-bellied toads also live in a diverse range of habitats, especially in broad-leafed coniferous forests. They have been observed living in open meadows, river valleys and swampy bushlands, and more often than not, floating suspended close to the water’s surface.

Photo by Mehgan Murphy, Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

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.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here:

The Fascinating Wyoming Toad

Wyoming toads

At around six weeks, the toadlets look like miniature (half-inch) versions of the adults. (Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

A North American toad is fighting its own battle with chytrid, a battle just as devastating as the one frogs in Panama are facing. The Wyoming toad (Anaxyrus baxteri) is one of the most endangered anurans (frog or toad) in North America. Historically, they were found in the Laramie Basin of southern Wyoming. Up until the mid 1970s, they were common throughout this region, but since then, the population drastically declined. Major threats are loss of habitat, pesticide usage and chytrid fungus. In 1994, the last wild toads were rescued from extinction when they were collected and sent to a captive breeding facility. One day, their tadpoles could be released back into the wild, thanks to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ), and other zoos and federal facilities now breeding Wyoming toads.

The CMZ Amphibian Propagation and Research Center is a bio-secure area and closed to zoo guests to help keep chytrid fungus and other diseases out of the breeding population. CMZ’s Wyoming toad population for 2011 consists of 17 males and 17 females. However, due to limited space for tadpoles, not all of the toads are bred each year. The Wyoming toad studbook keeper and population manager determine what the best matches are to maximize and maintain genetic diversity. CMZ also monitors the overall health of each toad and decides whether they are fit for reproduction.

During most of the year, CMZ’s goal is to keep the toads healthy and growing with exceptional water quality, properly supplemented feeder insects and regularly changed UV bulbs. As spring approaches, we confirm our recommended pairings and prepare for something somewhat disconcerting for an animal keeper–we have to chill our toads in the refrigerator! In order for them to breed successfully, the toads require a period of cool hibernation as would be experienced in the wild. This is a very delicate time for them because their immune systems are suppressed.

Amphibian Propagation Center

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's Wyoming toad room in the Amphibian Propagation Center. (Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

A few days prior to hibernating, the toads are not given food. As their metabolism slows, so does their digestive tract, and undigested food could make them sick. Their room is slightly cooled from 75 degrees to 65 degrees and the lights are turned off the day before entering the hibernaculum, which is basically a fancy refrigerator. Each tank of toads has its own tub filled with wet gravel, carbon, sand and moss. The toads are weighed, placed in the tubs and the temperature is set to 52 degrees. The next day, it’s turned down to 45 degrees, the following day to 41 degrees and finally, down t

o a chilly 38 degrees. The toads will remain at this temperature for 35 days, misted with chilled water to maintain humidity and checked on about twice a week. We have to limit the number of checks to reduce the amount of environmental disturbance.

After 35 days, the toads are slowly warmed up in reverse order of the cool down. It’s believed the hibernation helps produce the natural hormones that would trigger reproductive behavior in the wild. The toads are placed back in their normal husbandry tanks and offered a few insects. They should be ready for breeding the next day.

Many species of amphibians are not able to be bred in a captive environment. For the Wyoming toad, it was discovered they require supplemental hormones in addition to hibernation in order to reproduce. The females are given their first hormone injection in the morning and placed in a breeding tank. Six hours later, the males are given a hormone injection and the females their second. The breeding tank has about one-and-a-half inches of water and some plastic floating plants. A recording of Wyoming toad breeding calls is played for 24 hours while the pairs are together. (Hear a sample of the Wyoming toad call) By the next morning, the female should have hopefully produced eggs fertilized by the male.

On June 1, 2011, six pairs of Wyoming toads were placed together at CMZ, and all of them produced eggs! Unfortunately, two of the egg masses were infertile, but in total, CMZ had about 2,000 tadpoles. 1,792 of them were released back into the wild in Wyoming. Based on valuable genetics, CMZ held back 60 tadpoles for future breeding.

Wyoming toad

A Wyoming toad in the wild. (Courtesy of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

Each year, staff from CMZ, other zoos and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey Mortenson National Wildlife Refuge for offspring from previous released Wyoming toads. This is a non-public access refuge, and reintroductions were stopped at this site in 2005 due to chytrid. The site allows us to see if the population could continue even though chytrid was present. Tadpoles are now released at a different location, which prevents us from confusing recently released animals with those naturally produced in the wild.

Length, relative size, weight, habitat conditions, temperature and wind speed are just some of the data recorded during the survey. Most importantly, though, is collecting a swabbed sample from each found toad to see if chytrid is present. The toads are also given a microchip under their skin for permanent identification, enabling us to know how many different toads are found. If a microchipped toad is caught again, a scanner will tell us.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is very proud to be an important participant in the Wyoming toad recovery program!

Jeff Baughman, Conservation Center keeper, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Singing in the rain!

San Carlos tree frog (Dendropsophus phlebodes)

San Carlos tree frog (Dendropsophus phlebodes)

Cute Frog of the Week: August 22, 2011

What is more romantic than the light of a full moon glinting off of fresh raindrops resting on the lush foliage of the rainforest? Well, if you are the San Carlos tree frog (Dendropsophus phlebodes), soft moonlight is a complete turnoff. This gold frog, barely an inch long, with brown zigzagging lines, feels most amorous on cloudy nights after drenching rains.

Males form large choruses in the foliage above temporary ponds of water in Central America during the rainy season to serenade females. Their sweet song, which sounds like a low pulsing “creek” (download the ringtone below!), becomes more feverish as more males join. Males will synchronize their calls and add variations, known as click notes, to distinguish themselves from the crowd.

The moon is a total atmosphere-killer for the frogs. Their calling and breeding activity peaks about three days after a heavy rain, however, the appearance of the moon dampens the frogs’ singing. When the conditions are right females will lay up to 400 eggs in a pool of water in small groups after mating with a male. The eggs will float on the surface of the water and attach to plants sticking out of the water. The tadpoles hatch between August and October, and they stay in the shallow areas of the ponds until they mature.

Right now the IUCN considers the San Carlos tree frog to be of least concern, with a stable population. Localized threats, however, include deforestation for agricultural development, logging, human settlement and pollution.

Photo by Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center.

Banded horned tree frog (Hemiphractus fasciatus) ALL-NEW frog ringtones: Download the San Carlos tree frog’s call!

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.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here:

REPORT from Defenders of Wildlife: Perils Of The Frog Leg Trade

American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)

The frog leg market is systematically devastating frog populations throughout the world and, subsequently, causing severe environmental impacts to natural ecosystems. (Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

International wildlife conservation groups Pro Wildlife, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Welfare Institute, issued a report in July titled Canapés to Extinction: The international trade in frogs’ legs and its ecological impact. The report is the first comprehensive study of the frog leg market ever conducted and reveals an industry that is systematically devastating frog populations throughout the world and, subsequently, causing severe environmental impacts to natural ecosystems.

“Humans have been eating frogs for ages. But today the practice is not sustainable on a global scale,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, acting director of international conservation programs for Defenders of Wildlife. “Billions of frogs are traded internationally each year for human consumption, and that industry is responsible for depleting wild populations, spreading deadly disease, and allowing invasive species to destroy the health of native ecosystems.”

In recent years, the United States has imported an average of 2,280 tonnes (4.6 million pounds) of frog legs each year—the equivalent of 456 million to 1.1 billion frogs—and another 2,216 tonnes (4.4 million pounds) of live frogs for Asian-American markets. Most frog and frog leg imports to the United States come from China, Taiwan, Ecuador, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Mexico and Indonesia.

During the last decade, the European Union imported an average of 4,600 tonnes (9.2 million pounds) of frog legs each year—the equivalent of 1 to 2.3 billion frogs. Indonesia is the world’s leading supplier, providing 84 percent of total imports to the EU with the vast majority of frogs being caught in the wild. Belgium, France and the Netherlands are the top importers in the EU.

“The decline of many frog species is a global problem that is being greatly accelerated by just a handful of European nations,” said Sandra Altherr, director of wildlife programs for Pro Wildlife in Germany. “The capture and killing of native frogs is prohibited within the EU, so it is incomprehensible that we would be supporting environmentally disastrous practices abroad.”

Until the mid-1980s, India and Bangladesh dominated the international frog leg export market. Severe exploitation resulted in the collapse of many wild frog populations in those countries, including two of the most sought-after species, the green pond frog and the Indian bullfrog. In turn, the decline of those species resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of pesticides, due to an explosion of insects and other agricultural pests previously kept in check by frogs. In 1985, the two frog species were protected with an Appendix II listing under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). India and Bangladesh subsequently banned exports, their native species have since recovered and the use of pesticides has been reduced.

However, in recent years, other countries have stepped in to fill the void and their frog populations appear to be headed for a similar fate. Indonesia, where billions of frogs are taken from the wild annually, and to a lesser extent China, Taiwan and Vietnam, where frogs are farmed very intensively, have now taken over the export market.

“We must take immediate action to protect frog species from being exploited for international trade,” said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “Wild populations across Asia are already in trouble, and unregulated trade puts native species in the U.S. at even greater risk from deadly diseases that have been wreaking havoc on amphibians worldwide. It will take a coordinated effort from governments and the world’s conservation community to prevent the extinction of imperiled frog species and to protect our native species from harmful invasives.”

The report will be distributed to key government decision-makers, including those responsible for the implementation of CITES, with a request that they take immediate action to bring this unregulated trade under control.  Considering that the frog species dominating the frog leg trade are not currently protected under CITES, there is an urgent need for governments to secure CITES protections for them.

Download the full report

Read Scientific American’s coverage of this report.

Smooth as glass—or not.

Granular glass frog (Cochranella granulosa)

Granular glass frog (Cochranella granulosa)

Cute Frog of the Week: August 15, 2011

This little frog is not chilly, and those are not goose bumps all over its smooth—almost translucent—skin. Those bumps are how the granular glass frog received its scientific namesake: Cochranella granulosa. Its polka-dotted skin has a granulated texture. In fact, the granular glass frog does not live in a cold environment at all. It lives in a sticky, humid environment in the lowlands of Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras.

The frog lives in the foliage above fast-flowing streams and is nocturnal. When a male emerges from his day-long slumber, he sounds his call all night long. Females lay eggs covered in a jelly in clutches of 40 to 60 eggs above water. The eggs hang precariously over the edge of a leaf, but they are placed there purposely so. Although the eggs are not laid in water, they need a constant source of water. By hanging over the edge of a leaf they create a “drip tip,” which ensures that water that collects on the leaf will flow in a stream over them.

The IUCN currently considers these cuties to be of least concern, so their survival is smooth.

Photo by Kristen Martyn, Natura Tours Inc.

Banded horned tree frog (Hemiphractus fasciatus) ALL-NEW frog ringtones: Download the granular glass frog’s call!

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.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here:

Cupcakes for Golden Frog Day

Last year on Golden Frog Day, Aug. 14, I made Panamanian golden frog cupcakes to share with our herpetologists at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. This year I’m giving you the recipe ahead of time so that you can make your own this weekend in celebration of one of the coolest and most beloved of frog species. You might even consider hosting a bake sale to raise funds for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project’s work!

Ingredients to make 2 dozen Panamanian golden frog cupcakes:

Two 9.1 oz boxes of marble cake mix (Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, whatever you can get your hands on)
Two 16 oz containers of lemon frosting (Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, etc)
Note: If you’d prefer vanilla frosting, get some yellow food coloring and mix it into the frosting.
One 16 oz container of chocolate frosting
One 16 oz container of vanilla frosting
Red food coloring (to mix with the vanilla frosting to make mouths) or one pack of Twizzlers Pull and Peel candy
Yellow food coloring (to dye the marshmallows)
One 12 oz package of chocolate chips
Cupcake liners
One 10 oz package of marshmallows or a bag of mini Oreos
Sandwich baggies or frosting tips


Or make 'em 3-D!


Follow the directions on the box of cake mix and wait to frost cupcakes until they are cool. Frost either with lemon frosting or with vanilla frosting that has been dyed yellow. Next, cut the marshmallows into slices or halves, depending on how far you want the eyes to pop up. If you cut the marshmallows in half, dye the outside of the marshmallow with yellow dye and then affix onto the cupcake. If you cut the marshmallow thinner, put two slices directly onto the cupcakes. Put a chocolate chip on each marshmallow to complete the eyes. You could also try using mini oreo halves for the eyes.

Use a frosting tip or a sandwich bag with a hole cut in a corner to make the stripes on the golden frog’s face and nostrils with the chocolate frosting. Do the same with the vanilla dyed red to create the mouths. Or use Twizzlers Pull and Peel candy to make mouths.

Very simple! If you have other creative suggestions for making these cupcakes, leave your ideas in the comments section below. If you’re in Panama, don’t forget to check out our schedule of events to celebrate the second annual golden frog day. Anyone anywhere can enter our golden frog photography contest by joining us on Facebook.

Enjoy! And Happy Golden Frog Day!

Lindsay Renick Mayer, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Vanishing act.

Cinchona plantation tree frog (Isthmohyla rivularis)

Cinchona plantation tree frog (Isthmohyla rivularis)

Cute Frog of the Week: August 8, 2011

It is very rare that a frog is thought to be extinct only to be once again discovered years after hope for the survival of the species had evaporated. The Cinchona plantation tree frog (Isthmohyla rivularis) performed its great disappearing act in Costa Rica. It could no longer be found in its rainforest habitat in Monteverde by 1989 and Las Tablas by 1993. In 2008, scientists unexpectedly found several males and a female; and with that the cinchona plantation tree frog had seemingly magically reappeared.

It is no wonder such a long time passed between sightings. These tiny golden brown frogs hide themselves among the dense vegetation around and in fast-flowing rainforest streams. Males only give hints to their whereabouts at night when they call from vegetation around the water. The Cinchona plantation tree frog is not only difficult to find, but many of its behaviors are also mysterious. Two of the frogs have never been observed mating in the wild, nor have eggs ever been found in the wild—only tadpoles.

Photo by Andreas Hertz via ARKive.

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.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here:

Join us in celebrating Golden Frog Day

Panamanian golden frog day is Aug. 14.

Golden Frog Day is a national day of awareness in Panama that occurs annually on August 14th. This day was designated in 2010 to celebrate the Panamanian golden frog and promote amphibian conservation. This year, the Golden Frog Day celebration starts on August 8th and goes until the 14th with different activities in El Valle and Panama city. On Aug. 13, those of us at Summit Zoo in Gamboa will offer activities that help demonstrate the significance of frogs in ecosystems and why we should protect them. Here is a detailed agenda of the many activities next week.

Golden Frog Day Celebration Agenda

Monday, Aug. 8th to Friday, Aug 12th (El Valle)

8 am – 2 pm: Writing and Drawing Contest for students from elementary and high schools from El Valle.

Saturday, August 13th (El Valle)

9 am: Elementary and high schools, governmental and non-governmental institutions from El Valle and near towns will be part of a Golden Frog Day Parade on El Valle Principal Avenue.

7:30 pm: Play in honor of golden frogs. Title: “La India Dormida” by high school students from the Instituto Profesional Técnico de El Valle at San José de El Valle Church.


Saturday, August 13th (Summit Zoo)

10 am: Golden Frog Day Celebration with 100 Summit Zoo kids. First Frog Exhibit at the Zoo: Two common species and their amazing stories.

11 am: A sneak peek on Frog Conservation in Panama. Exhibit: Frogs food at the Zoo: flies, worms, crickets and more. What else can we do?

12 pm: Frog Fun! Games and educational activities with kids.

1 pm: Frog lunch and Frog cake.


Sunday, August 14th (El Valle)

11 am: Mass at San Jose de El Valle Church.

12 pm: Visit to EVACC

2 pm: Marching bands performances at Hotel Pekin plaza in front of El Valle Public Market.

We would also like to encourage all of our frog friends to enter their cool golden frog pictures or any other amphibian picture in our online photography contest. How can you participate? You just need to friend us on Facebook and upload your frog pics (one per person), then tag us and tell all your friends to “like” it. Don’t forget to post your name and email so we can contact you when you win! The winner will receive a specially commissioned traditional tagua carving of their winning frog made by Lanky.

The mustachioed frog.

Bright eyed frog (Boophis albilabris)

White-lipped bright eyed frog (Boophis albilabris)

Cute Frog of the Week: August 1, 2011

This red-eyed frog looks like it should be in a “got milk?” advertisement with its identifying white line above its upper lip, much like a milk mustache. While the white-lipped bright eyed frog (Boophis albilabris) may not be mighty in size at 3 inches long, it is fairly large in numbers. It is common in its home range of Madagascar where it generally lives near freshwater streams in rainforests.

Males call from their perches in trees above the streams to attract females during the breeding season. The breeding season is a frenzy of egg-laying activity. The bright-eyed frog can easily lay up to 400 eggs in a stream—or even in a trickle of water! Although IUCN considers this species to be of least concern, habitat loss and fragmentation are contributing to a population decline.

Photo by Gonçalo M. Rosa via ARKive.

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.

Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos here: