Save The Frogs Day

Written By: Spencer Schultz

Panamanian golden frogs, Atelopus zeteki, are highly important cultural representatives in Panama, somewhat of a national symbol; they are as valued as the Bald eagle is to the United States. Their likeness is culturally lucky, displayed on pottery and shown even on their lottery tickets; they even hold deep roots in local mythology.
The historic range of Panamanian golden frogs is around El Valle De Anton and Cerro Campana in Panama. They were found around sloping streams and waterfalls in Cloud forests of Panama, roughly 1,100 to 4,300 ft above sea level. Atelopid frogs (golden frogs and their relatives) are highly unique and secrete a skin toxin known as Zetekiton, which is named for the Panamanian golden frog specifically.
Living so close to the loudness of waterfall and fast moving rivers, they have done away with calling for main communication and have developed a hand waving motion known as semaphore. This hand wave is done on top of rock or along bare banks to maximize visibility. They use this as a warning to defend territory, as well as to attract mates.

Golden frogs are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list, but there has not been a sighting reported since 2009. While many conservationists hold some hope that there are still undiscovered populations, it is most likely that these gorgeous creatures are extinct in the wild. This is thought to have happened mainly in 2008 when a pathogenic fungal disease known as chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) came through Panama and caused most, if not all, of the frogs to die off. The fungus attaches itself to the semi porous skin of amphibians causing many health issues. Habitat loss has also contributed to population decline, mainly from farming and logging polluting their waterways. These frogs are considered a warning of what may happen to all frogs and other amphibians worldwide.

We are honored to be working with many other facilities in the Panamanian Golden Frog Species Survival Plan (SSP). This plan acts as an ark of sorts for the species. We work to develop the most genetically diverse frogs possible with the hopes of releasing them back into their native range. However before this is done, they need a healthy home to go back to.  This is something that can be done by working on preventing habitat loss and learning how to overcome chytrid.

Simple ways you can help are by not releasing pets into the wild, thus preventing disease spread, as well as preventing pollution by recycling and keeping our home waterways clean. Another idea is to join a citizen scientist program, such as FrogWatch, where you can help take surveys of native frogs in your area.

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