The San Diego Zoo began exhibiting mantellas in the late 1980s and has successfully bred and maintained the critically endangered golden mantellas and bronze-backed mantellas. Our new Reptile Walk, which opened July 2012, features reptile, amphibian, and California native species exhibits. It is located in the Discovery Zone, just across from our Galápagos tortoise exhibit, and includes golden mantellas and bronze-backed mantellas as well as poison frogs, newts, and other fascinating amphibians.
Like all amphibians, mantellas have skin that soaks up water. If something happens to change the water, amphibians are one of the first species to feel it. Much like frog species from all over the world, the health of mantellas can help scientists determine the health of Madagascar’s rain forests, air, and waterways. Because mantella populations are small, the slightest problem or mildest pollutant could be enough to completely wipe out a species.
Eleven mantella species are either at critical risk, endangered, or vulnerable. Threats to these delicate frogs include habitat loss, contaminants, introduced species, global climate change, and collection for the pet trade. Some species, like the golden mantella, live only in tiny, limited areas, making them sensitive to over collection by people wanting to have the colorful frogs as pets. The San Diego Zoo is involved in breeding two mantella species to learn more about them and to help preserve these jewels of the rain forest for future generations.