Atelopus zeteki – Panamanian Golden Frog
IUCN redlist status: Critically Endangered
AArk Priority Score: 78 (very high priority)
Panama’s Ministry of Environment: Very high
The Panamanian golden frog is endemic to Central Panama where it was historically found in the region surrounding El Valle de Anton and Campana National Park. This beautiful yellow and black frog is a dominant environmental and cultural symbol in Panama. In 2010 a law was passed in Panama declaring the Panamanian Golden Frog a national symbol as well as assigning August 14 National golden frog day. This annual event now includes many celebrations around the country, including parades in the streets of El Valle de Anton.
Status in the wild: This species used to be locally abundant at sites where it was present, but has experienced severe chytridiomycosis-related declines at all known remaining sites, and arrived in El Valle de Anton in 2006. The Panamanian golden frog was last recorded in the wild in 2009. The species has historically been collected for the pet trade. Recent housing developments, agriculture and road construction in the region were responsible for degrading golden frog habitats prior to the chytridiomycosis epidemic. Golden frog habitats continue to be impacted by land-use changes, and the amphibian chytrid fungus is still present. These two obstacles need to be overcome for planning successful future reintroduction programs.
Status in captivity: In the year 2000, prior to the chytridiomycosis-related declines, the Baltimore Zoo received approval to establish a captive population of adult Panamanian golden frogs (Atelopus zeteki) under Project Golden Frog in the USA. This population of golden frogs has grown to more than 1,000 adult individuals at more than 50 participating US and Canadian institutions and is managed by the AZA Golden Frog Species Survival Plan. A small population of golden frogs has also been established and bred in Panama at the Nispero Zoo where you can see an exhibition of golden frogs. In 2013 an IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group meeting convened 40 stakeholders in El Valle de Anton to develop a roadmap for the conservation of golden frogs.