The San Diego Zoo received its first Panamanian golden frogs in 2003. They came from the Baltimore Zoo in Maryland as part of a collaborative effort among scientific, educational, and zoological institutions in the U.S. and Panama. Known as Project Golden Frog, the idea is to create assurance colonies for the species, should they become extinct in the wild. We have had a lot of success with the little frogs, and some of them can be seen on exhibit in the Zoo’s new Reptile Walk.
A national good luck charm?
The Panamanian golden frog is Panama’s national animal. Pictured on everything from T-shirts to lottery tickets to magazines, the tiny frog represents good fortune. For many years, the frogs were captured and taken into hotels and restaurants to promote tourism, as well as placed in people’s homes for good luck. But the frog's good luck seems to have run out with the spread of a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus, which has wiped out golden frog populations. Sadly, the species is now at critical risk in the wild.
Leaping to the rescue
The tiny Panamanian golden frog may be gone from its native forests, but it is found in managed-care facilities throughout North America that hope to keep the species alive and healthy. San Diego Zoo Global is working closely with the Panamanian government and other zoos to ensure the survival of this species. In fact, the Zoo has been so successful in its breeding efforts that we have been selected to house some extremely important “founders,” or wild-caught members, of the managed-care population as a safeguard for the species. These frogs are of great importance genetically to the breeding program, and it is an honor to be selected to work with them.
Since 2003, when we received 20 young Panamanian golden frogs, we have had almost 500 hatch here. However, no frogs will be released into the wild until the threat of disease has lessened. Here's a blog post about the program.
If you’d like to know more about the amphibian extinction crisis and what you can do to help, please visit the Amphibian Ark®. Some of the most important actions for saving amphibian species, like protecting the environment and raising awareness of the plight of animals, can happen from within our homes.