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Golden frog is back from the brink
By Marijulia Pujol Lloyd
Panama´s Golden Frog, like many species of amphibians, fell victim to Chytridiomycosis, the fungal disease that wiped out all kinds of frogs and toads around the world in Central, South and North America, Dominica and Montserrat in the Caribbean and Eastern Australia. However, there is hope for this tiny toad thanks to the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC), located inside the Nispero Zoo in El Valle de Anton and its breeding program that was specially designed to house the exotic species in captivity. The first of them born in captivity have just been announced.
The EVACC successfully developed an egg clutch laid on November 24, 2012 into tadpoles which were raised to form a group of 42 healthy young golden frogs. The EVACC’s director, Heidi Ross said that “bringing a wild animal into captivity is only the beginning of the work that we can do in our facility. Using applied technology, our available resources and human innovation to create Mother Nature, inside, is the challenge.”
EVACC is a project initiated by the Houston Zoo with some logistical support from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and is the only place in Panama where the Panamanian golden frog, exists.
Amphibian Pods spread
The Houston Zoo and New England Zoo partnered the design and development of another Amphibian Pod in 2008, which is housed at the Summit Municipal Park. The pod can safely house 1-2 species of amphibians, managing and reproducing them through their life stages. Ross added that learning from their past experience they focused a lot of energy on the diet.
Peter Riger, director of conservation programs at the Houston facility and one of the principal sponsors of this project, said: “EVACC has successfully bred both golden frog species in captivity and they have aggressive management goals to grow the captive population to at least five hundred individuals for each species that I’m sure they will meet.”
The EVACC facility forms part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project. The program collects frogs in areas threatened by the devastating chrytid fungal disease that has decimated amphibians worldwide.
They are hoping to learn to raise these animals in captivity until enough is known about the disease to allow the researchers to release the amphibians into the wild once again.
The EVACC project has reached a wide and demographically varied global audience. The center exhibit features Panamanian golden frogs and a stream habitat reminiscent of their natural home in Panama. It is estimated that at least 10 million people have heard about the global amphibian crisis through the context of EVACC. It’s an enduring example of the impact of teamwork by dedicated zoo professionals.