These amphibians have bright yellow skin that is toxic to protect them from predators, but this defense mechanism will save them from extinction. They haven’t been in their natural habitat for nearly 10 years. These frogs used to found in central Panama and along the mountain ranges. They became critically endangered in the 1990’s and by 2006 there were not any frogs left in their natural habitat.
The frogs are protected under Panamanian law, but have still had to face many threats including deforestation, water pollution, and the pet trade. But it was the arrival of the amphibian-killing disease chytridiomycosis in 2004 which quickly decimated this species population. The infection is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen that reached El Valle, the home of the Panamanian golden frog.
But fear, not there is hope! The Maryland Zoo volunteered to spearhead the North American colony, and with the help of several institutions, have had amazing success maintaining genetic diversity since importing the frogs. In 2001 they received their first group of frogs. Many people probably won’t even know where they are located in the zoo or how much the Maryland zoo has put into saving this frog but the zoo is a leader in their breeding programs of the Panamanian golden frog. The exhibit houses about 30 individuals, but there are as many as 1000 frogs at a time in bio-secure rooms in the Zoo’s vet hospital. These rooms out of the public view are the real story of the Zoo’s efforts.
Outside of The Maryland Zoo there are other programs that also have a great impact on the survival of these frogs like The San Diego and Huston Zoo. Another ongoing mission to aid the frogs is Project Golden Frog. It is a conservation project involving educational, scientific, and zoological institutions in the Republic of Panama and the United States. Their only mission is the survival of the frogs.
The Maryland zoo has for the most part kept quiet about their great efforts in maintaining the lives of the golden frog but their results speak for themselves.
Source: Anita Brown