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.

Long Live the Frog: The 2013 Golden Frog Festival

THE HIGHLIGHTS
Participants: 6280
Volunteers: 44
School Groups: 34 (approx. 1000 kids)
Events: 9
Fliers Distributed: 1450
Frog Cookies Eaten: 100

MEDIA COVERAGE
Radio/TV Spots: 5
News Articles: 4
Media Websites: 4

The third annual Golden Frog Festival, consisting of events throughout Panama, united locals and visitors from around the world in a single mission: celebrating and conserving Panama’s amphibian treasures.

2013 Golden Frog Day Parade  in El Valle

2013 Golden Frog Day Parade in El Valle

The festival began on Sunday, August 11 at the Smithsonian’s Punta Culebra Nature Center, where staff members from the Gamboa Amphibian Rescue Center led discussions and animal demonstrations for visitors of all ages. Children competed to make the best frog sculpture on the center’s sandy beach, then moved to decorating their own golden frog masks. Visitors learned about the crisis facing the country’s amphibian populations—from the deadly fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) to habitat loss—and of different ways to help preserve these valuable species. It was a fun-filled day for all ages.

Frog sandcastle at Punta Culebra

Frog sandcastle at Punta Culebra Photo: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

The Smithsonian’s Tropical Research Institute (STRI) hosted several mid-week events in both English and Spanish. In STRI’s weekly “Tupper Talk,” Dr. Myra Hughey spoke on her cutting-edge research in how understanding the bacterial components of a frog’s skin can help elucidate ways to combat Bd infection. Hughey’s lecture targeted the scientific community, while the following day a public forum offered visitors of all backgrounds and ages the chance to hear from Dr. Roberto Ibanez, one of the chief scientists at the Panamanian Amphibian Rescue and Conservation (PARC) project; Lucrecia Arosemena, whose tireless efforts helped prompt the Panamanian legislature to recognize August 14, 2010, as the first national Golden Frog Day; and Dr. Justin Touchon, who humorously explored a number of interesting and little known facts about frogs. (For example, until his talk, I had no idea that some female frogs select their mates based on the complexity of their calls—or that those complex calls that woo the most females also make males more vulnerable to predators such as bats.)

GFD&parkour

In continued efforts to build public involvement, STRI and PARC personnel also spoke at La Rana Dorada pub in Casco Viejo, where Dr. Richard Cooke enthralled many casual passersby with his tales of the psychotropic properties of frogs and in a talk titled “It’s not easy being green,” Angie Estrada offered a moving plea for conservation and action. These talks proved so inspiring that by evening’s end, several audience members had decided to start volunteering with PARC.

Edgardo Griffith presenting a lesson on frog conservation in El Valle schools

Edgardo Griffith presenting a lesson on frog conservation in El Valle schools

Finally, the week wrapped up with events for schoolchildren and families at both Gamboa’s Summit Zoo and the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center. Throughout the weekend, visitors saw the frogs—including several golden frogs successfully hatched in captivity, learned about the valuable contributions amphibians make to the Panamanian ecosystem, and discovered how to help conserve these animals. In El Valle, the local golden frog parade featured floats and costumes galore—one child dressed as a golden frog princess; another, a morphologically accurate tadpole. After learning that golden frogs use semaphore, a form of hand gestures, for communication, some children compiled a dance to mimic their movements. As dusk fell in the mountains that night, I heard one shimmying teenage girl explain to another, “If I were a golden frog, this is how I’d call my mate.” Her hands circled her torso, then she raised her palms to the sky. From a distance, she probably looked like any teenager bouncing to the beat of her favorite song. But I was close enough to hear her explain, “And this is how I’d protect my territory,” and I knew this dance stemmed not from the idle energy of a teenager on holiday, but from an engagement that just might lead to action.

Kids on the Golden Frog Float on the 2013 Golden Frog Day Parade

Kids on the Golden Frog Float on the 2013 Golden Frog Day Parade

Somewhere nearby a woman exclaimed, “This year’s festival was amazing! Next year’s will be even better!” With your help, it will. If you’d like to be involved as a volunteer for amphibian rescue, please contact us. See you in 2014!

-Elizabeth Wade, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project Volunteer

Golden Frog ATVs!

Third Annual Golden Frog Day Calendar of Activities (2013)

Golden Frog Day
11 August
PUNTA CULEBRA NATURE CENTER Amador Causeway
Times: 10:00 AM a 6:00 PM
Frog exhibit and fun activities for kids.
Contact: Puntaculebra@si.edu 212-8793

14 August
EARL S. TUPPER CONFERENCE CENTER, SMITHSONIAN TROPICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE Ancon
Time: 6:00 pm
PUBLIC FORUM. Presentations by Dr. Roberto Ibañez, Dr Justin Touchon and Lucrecia Arosemena.
Contact: FlorezNA@si.edu

15 August
La RANA DORADA PUB, Casco Viejo
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
“Science and Beer” conversation with amphibian experts: Dr. Richard Cooke and Angie Estrada
Contact: FlorezNA@si.edu

16 August
SUMMIT MUNICIPAL PARK
Come to Summit with your friends and help to save frogs!
Time: 10:00 AM a 12:00 PM and 1:00 a 3:00 PM
Contact: angiestrada@gmail.com , 232-4850/232-4854

Saturday 17 August
EL VALLE DE ANTON
Time: 11:00 AM
“Golden Frog Parade ”
Parade participants please meet opposite the church. Participants should dress festively, inspired by frogs.
Contact: sentimientovallero@gmail.com

17 & 18 August
EL VALLE DE ANTON
El Níspero Zoo – El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC)

Times: Saturday: 12:30 – 4:30 PM. Sunday: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Educational activities and exhibit of the amphibian conservation center and golden frogs.

JOIN US TO CONSERVE OUR NATURAL HERITAGE

Celebrate Golden Frog Day (English) from Melissa Mak on Vimeo.

Organizers: Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Summit Municipal Park, El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, La Rana Dorada Pub, APRADAP, FUNDECO, Cámara de Turismo de El Valle de Anton and Corregiduría de El Valle de Anton.

Cantus Panamá choral concert

Cantus Panama 2013

For those in Panama City -This is a reminder about the Cantus Panamá choral concert coming this June 8 and 9!

Please join us for our “Songs for Nature” concert. The concert will be presented on Saturday, June 8 at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, June 9 at 2:00 p.m. at the Visitors Center of the Biodiversity Museum. If you have never been there before there are directions included below. The price for each concert is $5.00 and the tickets can be purchased at the door.

Directions: Go to the road leading to the Amador Causeway. A short while after passing the Figali Convention Center, but just before the Biodiversity Museum, there will be a traffic circle between the street lanes. The circle has a monument in the middle of it. At the traffic circle turn right. The Biodiversity Museum Visitors Center is the first building on the left. Parking is on the right and on the street.

Proceeds from these concerts will be donated to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project – a project to save Panama’s incredible frogs and salamanders.

Please mark your calendars and tell all of your friends about this exciting event! We look forward to seeing you at the concert!

Save the Frog Day Celebrations – Panama

Save the Frog Day Celebrations at the Summit Municipal Park, Panama

Save the Frog Day Celebrations at the Summit Municipal Park, Panama

This years’ celebration of ‘Save the Frog Day’ was held at Summit Municipal Park on April 27,2013 where the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is currently housed. A booth was decorated with balloons, a golden frog piñata (for donations) and a large banner to draw the families and children who frequent the park on weekends. This Saturday was no exception. We estimated that approximately 85 children shared in the activities. We also received 165 signatures on our Save the Frog Day sign up poster.

All throughout the day we had a steady stream of inquisitive children anxious to paint frog masks and were rewarded for their efforts with frog-shaped chocolates and stickers. There were those who would like to paint more if their parents hadn’t reminded then that there were lots of other things to see and do yet that day!

For the more inquisitive and brave visitors there were containers filled with some of the frogs’ favorite snacks. There were extra- large cockroaches, crickets and meal worms and their parents the beetles. We would have to say some of our guests weren’t as excited about those. Some were a bit horrified from the looks on their faces, yet were understanding when we explained that these were very nutritious and necessary to keep them healthy.

A large poster displayed the wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes of frogs live here in Panama. We are excited and looking forward to next year when we will be settled into our new facility in Gamboa, where everyone will be able to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the precious creatures we are celebrating and fighting to preserve. Until next year, everyone keep up the good work!

-Amphibian Rescue Project Volunteer – Dedra A. Kirby-

Frog Poetry and the Washington Post

Washington Post

On Dec. 30, the Washington Post ran a front-page story about the rescue project.

The year ended on a high note for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. William Booth, a science writer for the Washington Post, joined rescue project researchers on a field expedition and his story about the rescue project came out on the front page of the Post on Dec. 30. The story inspired one reader, Tim Torkildson, to share a lovely poem about frogs and the disease that is wiping them out.

Booth also did this NPR interview about his recent trip to Panama.

If you saw the story and are interested in making a donation to the rescue project, please follow this link to the National Zoo’s website.

THE FROG
by Tim Torkildson

The frog is an amphibian
Who thrives most ev’rywhere,
From the dry Namibian
To just off ol’ Times Square.
The ones who have a bumpy skin,
With warts and pits and nodes,
Are the closest Phylum kin;
We simply call them toads.
The bullfrogs in the early spring
give ponds reverberation
With their raucous verbal fling,
Attempting procreation.
The have a courtship ritual
that’s called, I think, amplexus,
Which gives them fits conniptual
Between the two odd sexes.
A little boy will manage to
Corral a tadpole, yes,
And give it quite a slimy view
Right down his sister’s dress!
And did you know the urine from
a pregnant lady will
cause some frogs to lay a scum
of eggs, with no male thrill?
And so they’re useful critters,
As the French will tell you so;
Their legs taste good in fritters,
Are mistaken for turbot.
And what of cane toads, mind you,
Where, if you lick the skin,
The psychedelics blind you
To sorrow, grief and sin?
But frogs, those little gargoyles,
Which are funny in cartoons,
Are engaged in lethal broils
That leaves their lives in ruins.
A fungus known as “Bd” kills
The frogs down in Belize,
Then jumps the valleys and the hills
So others it may seize.
The Costa Rica Golden Toad
Is now extinct, alack.
More are headed down that road,
Since habitat is slack.
Toxins give some frogs three legs,
Which doesn’t help them jump.
Instead they are like clumsy kegs
Who in the water flump.
Scientists preserve some frogs
In habitats in labs.
Dressed in their starched, stiff white togs
They keep meticulous tabs.
To save the frogs, oh please donate
A dollar or a yuan,
So the polliwog birth rate
Will someday be a shoo-in!

Happy Holidays!

We are grateful for all of the support that we have received this year and look forward to another terrific year of saving some of Mother Nature’s most valuable gifts.

If you’re feeling in the holiday spirit, please consider giving frogs a little boost by:

  • Donating money to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. Even the smallest donation can help us provide a safe haven for frogs.
  • Text FROG to 20222 to give $5 to the project (message and data rates apply).
  • Help us spread the word, whether on Facebook, Twitter or at your holiday dinner party.
  • Plan a trip to Panama to volunteer for the project. You’ll play a pivotal role in saving amphibians and have the experience of a lifetime. Don’t believe us? Check out what former volunteers have had to say.

Happy holidays from the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project!

The story of the deer and the frog

The story of “The deer and the frog”

The deer and the frog

Frogs and conservation are part of many traditions and cultures.

Once upon a time, there was a deer that always made fun of small wild animals, especially frogs. “You guys are slow, weak and small,” the deer used to say and to demonstrate his strength and speed, he challenged one of the frogs to a race. The intelligent frog accepted the challenge and together the frogs planned a way to beat the deer. They agreed that each of them would wait every few meters and relieve the other and as a result, deceive the deer. The race started and the deer took the lead, but after a while the frog was ahead of him. The deer sped up and took the lead again until the frog overtook him again. Close to the finish line, the deer got tired and lost the race, not knowing that many small frogs with agile minds proved him wrong.*

 

If you follow this blog, you know that a group of zoos, governmental and nongovernmental organizations motivated by and concerned about the current crisis facing amphibians started this project to rescue and conserve some of the most endangered frog species in eastern Panama. It is easy to understand what motivates a scientist, a veterinarian, a zookeeper or an environmentalist to conserve a species, but we often forget that there are people whose cultures are based on the respect for nature, conservation of many species and the dissemination of this knowledge through the generations.

Hand-carved frog taguas by Lanky Cheucarama

One of the rescue project's frog keepers, Lanky Cheucarama, carves these beautiful frog tagua nuts. Can you tell which is real and which is fake?

Lanky Cheucarama is Wounaan and one of the keepers at Summit Zoo for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. The Wounaans are one of seven ethnic groups found in Panama and they occupied the eastern region of Panama (the Darien) and the Chocó region in Colombia. Its inhabitants are principally engaged in the sale of hand-made crafts. Baskets woven by women and carved wood and tagua (vegetable ivory) by men are some of the products offered to tourists who visit the Wounaans.

Lanky began tagua carving at the age of 12, taught by his father Chafil and uncle Selerino, two of the most outstanding artists in their community. Frogs are among the most common animals carved in tagua and take between three days (for the simple ones) and up to one week (for the most elaborate tagua) to carve. Lanky’s hand-carved tagua nuts are modeled after the frogs in the rescue project and available for sale here (proceeds support the rescue project).

For many indigenous communities in Central and South America, frogs have played an important role within their cultures. It is well know that some dart frog’s poison was used to hunt animals and was even used in weapons during fights with other indigenous groups. K’up’uur (frog, in wounaan language) is found in dances, songs, fables, art, medicine and other rites. This is why we know how important they are for this group.

Here at Summit Zoo, we always learn something new about Lanky’s culture and some of our team members and volunteers have been lucky to visit and meet his community and his family. It’s interesting to realize how even though we have come from different backgrounds; we all have the same interest: to protect and preserve what nature has to offer. By learning from each other and sharing our knowledge, we are able to save frogs and many other endangered species.

Purchase one of Lanky’s beautiful hand-carved tagua nuts modeled after the rescue project’s frogs here (proceeds support the rescue project).

*This is a story told to the children in Lanky’s community.

-Angie Estrada and Lanky Cheucarama, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Meet some of the frogs we’re trying to save

These are some of the endangered frogs we have already taken into captivity in Panama. With your help we hope that we’ll be able to keep extinction at bay, but these species are far from secure. We urgently need funding to expand our rescue operations. As you consider where to make your end-of year donations, please remember that Eastern Panama is falling to chytrid fungus at a rate of 30km per year! Click here to make an online donation to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

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