I received a call on Friday, October 8th that went something like this, “Hi Nicky, we just came back from the airport. The frogs are here.” I thought to myself, well, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never seen frogs get unpacked. This would be a chance to get away from my desk and see something rare. So, I grabbed a camera and headed down to the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo to check out our new Panamanian Golden frogs.
As I walked in behind-the-scenes of the RAD Room (Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Room), I was delighted to see Keeper Adam Fink eager to unpack TWENTY brightly colored little frogs.
The yellow and black amphibians reminded me of those little plastic frogs you see in gum ball machines, except these were very jumpy. There were ten containers that resembled something you would see at a deli counter. Each container held two frogs…and yes, each container had breathing holes. As soon as I arrived, Adam jumped into action to unpack each frog carefully, weigh it, photograph it, and place it into a special aquarium. These tasks took patience and persistence because the frogs are fast and slippery!
The twenty Panamanian Golden Frogs were born at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, MD. The frogs are extinct in the wild and several zoos in the US are breeding them for release into the wild in the future. The Oakland Zoo does not breed them, but instead we are holding individuals for the breeding program and to help educate the public about the Panamanian Golden Frogs. They are the national symbol of Panama. So, to Panamanians, this would equate to the Bald Eagle being gone in the US. They are one of the poster-frogs for the global amphibian crisis, which is being caused by climate change, the chytrid fungus, pollution, and other things that has caused one-third of the amphibian species in the world to decline and become endangered or extinct.
The frogs were packed into the cargo area of a Delta flight bound for Oakland and arrived the morning of October 8, 2010. This frog shipment was the second shipment the Oakland Zoo has received in the past six years. They were born in December, 2009, so they are almost one year old. They are now off exhibit for a thirty day quarantine, which is part of the Oakland Zoo’s regulations with acquiring new animals. We monitor new animals and test them for diseases to ensure they do not have anything that can spread to our animal collection. Currently, we have nine Panamanian Golden frogs on exhibit in the RAD room, so when the new ones are added, we’ll have a total of twenty-nine.
I asked Adam if they make any ribbit sounds and I was told no, but they do make little wheezing sounds. I tried to listen closely while they were being unpacked, but didn’t hear a peep. Adam also mentioned that these frogs are not big swimmers; they are more of a waters edge species, meaning they like to be around water but not necessarily in it. The black and gold patterns on their backs also change each year, so it’s hard to name and distinguish each frog. But, the Oakland Zoo weighs and photographs each frog every three months. As for food, these frogs feast on tiny crickets and fruit flies.
So, the next time you are at the Oakland Zoo, stop by the RAD Room and see if you can spot a Panamanian Golden Frog.