Golden poison frog
The poison frogs of Central and South America are famous for their toxic secretions, used by native communities when hunting. The poisons are not made by the frogs themselves, but are taken up from their diet of invertebrates, which have in turn ingested plant chemicals. However, in captivity the poison decreases considerably in strength as the food chain needed to supply them with their raw materials does not exist.
The frogs’ bright colours advertise their poisonous nature. The golden poison frog is thought to have the strongest toxin – 1g could kill 100,000 people.
Living near streams in deep leaf-litter or thick vegetation, golden poison frogs rarely leave the ground, where they feed on invertebrates that they catch during the day.
Males advertise for females by calling, and defend their eggs vigorously. After they metamorphose into tadpoles, the male carries the young on his back to a small pool, water trapped in a hole or a bromeliad, where they develop into frogs after 10-14 weeks.
With the world’s amphibians in crisis, captive populations are vital to conservation efforts. Extremely sensitive to environmental change, amphibians give us early warning of problems that might be due to global warming, pollution, and so on. Fungal disease is also threatening many species worldwide.
The golden poison frog is highly threatened as it has a very small distribution in an area of primary lowland forest, none of which is protected. Habitat destruction and illegal collection are major problems, along with the spraying of chemicals on crops.
This species first arrived at Durrell in 1998 after an illegal shipment being smuggled into the UK was confiscated by the customs authorities, and has since bred successfully. Our new biosecure facilities will enable us to continue studying and breeding the golden poison frog and other threatened amphibians in captivity, developing techniques to help slow their decline.