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Behavioral Enrichment for Captive Poison (Dart) Frogs – Dendrobates, Phyllobates, Epipedobates spp. and related species

“Behavioral enrichment” – allowing captive animals a wider choice of behaviors in which to engage – is all the rage in zoos, especially for mammals. Reptiles and amphibians also benefit greatly when afforded the chance to act in a more “natural” manner. While they do not seem to engage in “play” (although turtle owners may question this!), most will engage in activities that are extensions of natural behaviors, particularly hunting.

Poison frogs respond quickly to novel situations and are among the best amphibian candidates for enrichment experiments. I enjoy watching them “figure out” new things. One technique I use is to place crickets into a container perforated with tiny holes – the frogs soon learn to associate the container with food, and will gather about it, watching the holes for escaping insects. On non-feeding days, you may still notice that the frogs will pause occasionally to peer at the feeder, apparently in anticipation of a meal.

Establishing a colony of springtails (tiny, wingless insects that may be collected below leaf litter) in the terrarium’s substrate will also provide your frogs with “naturalistic” hunting opportunities. Springtails will thrive on decaying moss and the frogs’ waste products, and usually do quite well and provide valuable nutrients to your pets (springtails can also be given a bit of tropical fish flakes on occasion). It is great fun to watch poison frogs scrutinize every inch of the terrarium and to stalk their prey, and they surely benefit from the increased activity levels.


Information about behavioral enrichment for reptiles and amphibians at the National Zoo is posted at:

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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