Project Golden Frog (Panama)

These beautiful amphibians are found in the mountainous cloud forests of Panama and are famous in their home country as a unique national animal. Unfortunately, few people have ever seen them in the wild; golden frogs are classified as Critically Endangered.

Project Golden Frog is working to ensure the survival of this charismatic species through scientific field studies, education, and captive management, using the golden frog as a model flagship species for amphibian decline issues worldwide.

The Conservation Issue:

Habitat Loss: Like many other forest species, golden frogs are losing their habitat to deforestation. Forest habitats are altered by large-scale, organized logging, and by the slash-and-burn removal of trees to make way for small farm plots. In addition to removing trees, logging and burning lead to the sedimentation of water sources. Stream toxification from agricultural chemicals is also a threat to frogs and other wildlife. Unfortunately, these are issues that endanger amphibians worldwide, not only in Panama.

Chytrid Fungus: Golden frogs may already be extinct in the wild due to the deadly chytrid fungus, which has decimated amphibian populations throughout Central America. Frogs that already suffer from the fungus can be cured by veterinarians, but they cannot be returned to the wild because of the certainty of re-infection and death.

The Pet Trade: Other factors that have impacted the golden frog population include the unregulated collection of large numbers of wild frogs for local displays in Panama, as well as the international illegal pet trade.

The Project Golden Frog Approach:

Research: Project Golden Frog is committed to filling in the gaps in our knowledge of this and similar species. Field studies performed by the project prior to any collection of wild frogs allowed for the best possible management of the species in captivity, resulting in the Panamanian Golden Frog Husbandry Manual. This has been used as a model for managing and breeding similar species worldwide. The project has also focused on population genetic assessments, and researchers used glow-in-the-dark powder to study the dispersal and behavior of male and juvenile frogs at night. Current research seeks to answer questions about the impacts of the amphibian chytrid fungus worldwide, as well as focusing on species preservation by advancing technologies such as artificial reproduction, gamete cryopreservation, and cell banking.

Captive Propagation: If golden frogs are truly extinct in the wild, it will require an array of efforts to hopefully return them to their natural habitat in the future. As a result of captive breeding programs at PGF partner zoos in the USA and Canada, there are now more than 1,600 captive bred Panamanian golden frogs managed under a Species Survival Plan, maintaining a genetic diversity of over 90%. The eventual goal is to reintroduce this species to the wild. The captive colony in Panama has been established as a disease-free pre-release site, with this goal in mind. Habitat preservation is also a high priority for Project Golden Frog, so that the frogs will always have a place to call home.

Education: Project Golden Frog is working to increase awareness of current global amphibian declines, as well as greater respect for wildlife. Education is integrated into the project in a number of ways:

  • Bilingual training opportunities for US and Panamanian students and zoo/aquarium partners, including materials such as the husbandry manual
  • A classroom curriculum and Golden Frog conservation workshop created for school teachers in Panama, focusing on natural history, conservation and good environmental practices
  • PGF coloring and activity books in both English and Spanish made available for downloading from the project's website
  • Exhibits on Golden Frogs and the amphibian chytrid fungus developed and installed at zoos in Panama
  • Amphibian chytrid warning flyers explaining how to clean field equipment posted in areas where the fungus exists, to help minimize its spread
  • Preserved frogs from the captive colony distributed to more than a dozen museum collections in the US, so future researchers will have access to specimens if the species no longer exists in the wild

Oakland Zoo's Role:

PGF Partner Zoo: The Oakland Zoo displays golden frogs for education and conservation awareness. Come to the Zoo and visit our frogs to learn more about them!

Grants: Oakland Zoo's Conservation Grant has provided funds for Project Golden Frog.

Outreach and Education: Oakland Zoo connects to our public through docent tours and stations, special events and a variety of outreach and education programs with messages about frogs and other amphibians, and how to conserve them.

How You Can Help:


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