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Success: Panama’s golden frog bred in captivity

The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project recently announced that the golden frog, a national icon on the brink of extinction, has been successfully raised in captivity at the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, located within the Níspero Zoo. An egg clutch laid on Nov. 24, 2012 developed into tadpoles that have grown to become a group of 42 healthy six-month-old golden frogs.


Golden frog (Photo by Brian Gratwicke)

Wild golden frogs breed in clear, flowing streams in the mountains of central Panama. Recreating these conditions is crucial to successfully rearing their tadpoles in captivity. “Bringing wild animals into captivity to protect them from the chytrid fungal disease was only the beginning,” said Heidi Ross, director of the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center. “We had to recreate Mother Nature inside the Center. It took technology, resources and innovation for them to breed and develop into young adults.”


Golden frogs (Brian Gratwicke photo)

Since its establishment in 2006, the center has successfully bred and raised 18 Panamanian amphibian species to adulthood, but until now has not been able to add the Golden Frog, Atelopus zeteki, to that list. Staff increases and the installation of a new reverse-osmosis water treatment facility contributed to their success.

“Building local capacity to manage amphibian populations takes time and hard work,” said Roberto Ibáñez, Panama director for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. “The successful breeding of the golden frog at El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center sets a milestone for biodiversity conservation efforts within Panama.”

The El Valle facility forms part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. The Project collects frogs in areas threatened by the devastating chytrid fungal disease that has decimated amphibians worldwide.

The hope is to learn to raise these animals in captivity until enough is known about the disease to allow researchers to release amphibians into the wild once again. Project partners include the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Houston Zoo, and Zoo New England. To learn more about the project please visit the project’s website at 

This good news coincides with Panama’s National Golden Frog Day, which will be celebrated on August 14.


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