Third Annual Golden Frog Day Calendar of Activities (2013)

Golden Frog Day
11 August
Times: 10:00 AM a 6:00 PM
Frog exhibit and fun activities for kids.
Contact: 212-8793

14 August
Time: 6:00 pm
PUBLIC FORUM. Presentations by Dr. Roberto Ibañez, Dr Justin Touchon and Lucrecia Arosemena.

15 August
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
“Science and Beer” conversation with amphibian experts: Dr. Richard Cooke and Angie Estrada

16 August
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: , 232-4850/232-4854

Saturday 17 August
Time: 11:00 AM
“Golden Frog Parade ”
Parade participants please meet opposite the church. Participants should dress festively, inspired by frogs.

17 & 18 August
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.


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.

Apparently gold is an unlucky color for frogs

The Golden Mantella is a critically endangered frog from Madagascar Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian's National Zoo

The golden mantella is a critically endangered frog from Madagascar Photo: Brian Gratwicke Smithsonian’s National Zoo

The golden mantella, Mantella aurantiaca, is yet another of the world’s critically endangered golden colored frogs. It comes from Madagascar where it is associated with screwpine forests and has a tiny range of 10 square km. Popular in the pet trade, this species is threatened by an unsustainable demand from hobbyists and was listed on CITES appendix II listed species in 1995 to limit the trade. In 2000 all Mantella species from Madagascar were also added to the list. Appendix II permits limited trade and Madagascar has an export quota for 550 animals each year. In addition to unsustainable harvest this beautiful little creature is threatened by habitat loss, including loss of breeding habitat due to gold mining. More than 1,500 golden mantellas are now managed by 50 zoos and aquaria around the world, and an in-country conservation strategy has been developed that you can read here.

High Jumper

How's that for a view? The Agile Frog Rana dalmatina, (c) Nicola Destefano

How’s that for a view? The Agile Frog Rana dalmatina, (c) Nicola Destefano

If you want to see the agile frog live up to its name, just try catch one! This wily creature can jump for distance (2m) and height (1m).   Found throughout most of Europe, this species can be abundant in forest glades in deciduous forests where it is found. It is listed as least concern by IUCN, but evidently it’s acrobatic skills are no match for cars and it has been declining at some sites due to road-kill, conversion of forest habitats to agriculture and eutrophication.  The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has been running a conservation project on this species which declined precipitously on the Island of Jersey in the 1980’s.

Photo courtesy Nicola Destefano, submitted via the cute frog of the week Flickr group.

Update from Project Atelopus: One small frog

There are two types of golden frogs in Panama, Atelopus zeteki, the Panamanian golden frog, and Atelopus varius, the variable harlequin frog, which has more variable coloration ranging from mostly yellow to this darker chevron form. Photo: Jamie Voyles, Project Atelopus

There are two types of golden frogs in Panama. This one, Atelopus varius is the variable harlequin frog, which ranges in appearance from from this browner form to a bright yellow color at some sites. Atelopus zeteki is the distinctive day-glow yellow  Panamanian golden frog. Photo: Jamie Voyles, Project Atelopus

Jamie Voyles

One small frog can offer a great deal of hope. This frog, an adult male Atelopus varius, belongs to a genus that is critically endangered – not a single species, but the entire genus – and it is, therefore, one of the most rare creatures on earth. The Panamanian golden frog Atelopus zeteki carries the additional distinction of being Panama’s national animal and it is a symbol of good luck for the Panamanian people – so much so, that in the past golden frogs graced the face of lottery tickets. So, the loss of Atelopus, due to the lethal disease chytridiomycosis, has been nothing short of a tragedy for Panamanians, as well as for the larger global community.

About a decade ago, together with my colleague, Cori Richards (now Dr. Cori Richards-Zawacki), and I watched these golden jewels vanish from the streams of Panama as the disease chytridiomycosis (“chytrid”) spread across the country. Cori and I were still graduate students; we had a youthful (albeit slightly naïve) enthusiasm for confronting the ominous conservation disaster. Cori focused on golden frogs for her PhD and sampled thousands of frogs before they succumbed to disease. I was interested in understanding which species would be affected by the disease, not knowing that chytrid would, in a few short years, cause a wholesale wipe-out of entire amphibian communities. When frogs started to disappear, our research projects ground to a halt. After all, no frogs means no frog research. So our advisers, perhaps wisely, advised us to move on. As we shifted our research projects to other locales, the golden frogs reached the brink of extinction; sightings of these now-rare creatures dwindled until they were mere rumors.


Drs Cori Richards-Zawaki and Jamie Voyles, the principal investigators of Project Atelopus.

Fast-forward ten years. Cori and I had both advanced in our academic careers, but we were still haunted by the loss of Panamanian amphibians. When Cori visited the University of California, Berkeley, where I was finishing up my post-doctoral work, we spent an afternoon sitting on the green campus lawn and reflecting on our work of a decade earlier; despite the projections, we had not realized the full scope of what had been coming – especially for those beautiful Panamanian  frogs. In those days, we remembered, not very many people outside of a small group of researchers had even heard the word “chytrid”, much less tried to pronounce it. Few were paying attention to the global decline of amphibian populations; even fewer were aware of Panama’s devastating loss of its national mascot and lucky charm. So, naturally, we hatched a plan to return. We needed to see for ourselves what remained of the Panama’s golden frogs.

We set about gathering money from conservation grants, one small award at a time. The news coming from field reports was grim, but we remained determined. We pooled our small pots of funds (including support from the Smithsonian and Project Golden Frog) and galvanized small research team (including Edgardo Griffiths, Heidi Ross and Matt Robak). Soon enough, we trudged the misty mountains of Panama, machetes in hand and hopes held high despite the overwhelming odds. We visited numerous sites where Atelopus varius and Atelopus zeteki were historically found, including all of Cori’s old golden frog sites. We followed rumors, tips and hints. After several months of surveys, after hours of climbing trails with heavy packs and muddy boots, we repeatedly stumbled out of the rainforest disappointed, bug-bitten and empty handed. It would have been easy to admit that we weren’t chasing frogs anymore – now we were chasing ghosts.

Until, after months of searching, we finally found our glimmer of hope. On November 8, 2012 we found a healthy adult male Atelopus perched on a mossy boulder, unconcerned that a cross-continent scramble had been underway for months, just to find him. We sat in the rain, watching him and snapping pictures. We collected non-invasive samples for diagnostic and genetic testing and then, somewhat reluctantly, we said good-bye and wished him well. We were overjoyed…. and here’s why: One small frog in the wild suggests that there are at least some surviving populations out there. And if there is even one small population holding on, there is hope – not just for that population, or even for the species, but for the whole genus. Having evidence to support that hope, in the form of that single, small and beautiful frog, is something even better than holding a winning lottery ticket with his picture on it.

To find out more about Project Atelopus follow their field blog here.

Mission Critical: Amphibian Rescue

This award-winning documentary featuring our race to find a cure for a deadly amphibian disease and to build an amphibian ark in Panama is now available for FREE.  Watch the trailer below and download the full feature if you would like to see more on the itunes store for a limited time only.

CLICK HERE to download the full episode of Smithsonian Networks Mission Critical: Amphibian Rescue film. FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY!

And now for my gummy-bear impersonation.


A beautiful little reed frog (Hyperolius benguellensis)

This easily overlooked, almost translucent little frog can be found in ditches and ponds in Southern Africa. The males perch like little green jewels on reeds on the water’s edge. They spar with other males on flimsy stalks for prime breeding spots and advertise their presence to females with a short almost insect-like rasping rattle. If successful at attracting a female, the amplectant pair will lay clutches of up to 200 gelatinous eggs on vegetation just below the water’s surface.

The taxonomy of this group of small, green reed frogs can be confusing, but the pale paravertebral lines in addition to the dorsolateral stripes are one characteristic trait of this species. The frog is tolerant of disturbance and can be found in agricultural areas where it can be very abundant and it is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern.

Picture courtesy Brian Gratwicke.

Amphibian Ark training workshop for Latin America

With the support from USAID and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Amphibian Ark held the Amphibian Conservation Training for Latin America’s workshop in Panama last April. Twenty seven participants from Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama shared experiences and information about design, implementation and husbandry of ex-situ amphibian conservation programs. The main goal was to guide amphibian conservation programs in Latin America to the next level by successfully caring for and breeding endangered species in captivity, population management and developing an exit plan with possible reintroduction methods.

Participants and instructors from throughout Latin America at the recent Amphibian Ark training workshop in Gamboa, Panama

Participants and instructors from throughout Latin America at the recent Amphibian Ark training workshop in Gamboa, Panama. Participants: Dalina del Carmen Cosme, Abbileth González, Diana Troetsch, Rigoberto Diaz, Lanki Cheucarama, Nahir Cabezón, Humberto Membache, Francis Torres, Javier Jara, Ana Gabriela Castillo, Maykell Morales, Mireya Dimas, Marta Torres, Erick López, Elida Leiva, Camilo Londoño. Jose Alfredo Hernández, Leiza Torres, Juan Daniel Jaramillo, Diorene Smith, Diego Villaquiran, Osvaldo Cabeza, Diego Medina, Didier Ramos, Andy Pascual, Marcos Ponce y Benjamin Walker.

Participants received intense theoretical and practical training from some of the best amphibian specialists in the region. Amphibian crisis, species status, medical issues and veterinary care, food culture, daily husbandry and biosecurity standards were some of the subject discussed, complemented with group projects and nocturnal field trips around Parque Nacional Soberania.

We thank Ron Gagliardo, Amphibian Ark Trainning Officer; Luis Carrillo, Diego Almeida Reinoso, Brian Kubicki, Brad Wilson VMD, Eric Baitchman VMD, Edgardo Griffith, Roberto Ibanez, Jorge Guerrel and Angie Estrada for donating their time and sharing all their knowledge and experience. And to all the participants for their interest, enthusiasm and work on amphibian conservation.

- Angie Estrada, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Who needs balloons animals?


Túngara Frog (Engystomops pustulosus)

Now that the rains have set in, it is tough to find a freshwater ditch or puddle in Panama that does not have the tell-tail ‘cuieeeeeee-chuck’ calls of male túngara frogs hoping to attract a mate. If you live in Panama, follow this distinctive call to its source and you are likely to find an otherwise unremarkable, warty little creature putting on the performance of his life. This tiny brown comedian turns his whole body into an inflatable pool-toy on the water, exuding air from his swollen body into a huge gular pouch and back again.

Frogs that can avoid the attention of voracious frog-eating bats drawn to their calls pair with females and whip up the egg mass into a stiff white foam nest, using their hind legs like egg-beaters. The foam protects developing embryos from dehydration, sunlight and pathogens until they hatch after around 4 days. Check out this video about Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Scientist Rachel Page, who studies these little creatures and the bats that snack on them.

Tungara frogs are thankfully still thriving in the wild and are listed by the IUCN as least concern.

Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke. Send us your own cute frogs by uploading your photos on flickr here.

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!

Ready For My Close Up

White-Lipped Frog- Leptodactylus albilabris Photo Credit: Billy Santiago

White-Lipped Frog- Leptodactylus albilabris

The white- lipped frog is a semi-aquatic frog found in streams, marshes, irrigated fields and gutters. It is native to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and U.S. and British Virgin Islands. Due to its appearance in Spanish speaking areas, the frog is better known by its local Spanish name, Ranita De Labio Blanco. The frog’s name derives from its distinctive white upper lip, while the remainder of the skin typically includes shades of greenish-yellow, green, brown and black with varying spots and stripes. It has a medium size body with long limbs and un-webbed toes. While this species is currently wide spread in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it seems to be declining in the British Virgin Islands. In total, this species is fairly common and adaptable to different environmental changes. Due to these factors, the IUCN has listed the white-lipped frog as Least Concern on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Photo: courtesy Billy Santiago via Cute frog of the Week Photo Pool