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Pet Trade Frogs Fund Conservation – Wikiri’s Unique Strategy

Marsupial FrogDecades of work in zoos and the pet trade has, I believe, given me a unique perspective on the contributions that each can make to amphibian conservation.  Over the years, I have been greatly influenced by the work of private keepers who, in some cases, bred rare species long before zoos. Indeed, numerous husbandry techniques used in zoos originated in the private sector. In general, however, the pet trade focuses on pets and conservationists focus on conservation. But Wikiri, an enterprise formed to support amphibian conservation and research, combines the best of both worlds by using captive-bred frogs to promote its goals. In doing so, Wikiri has broken new ground in addressing the amphibian extinction crisis.

Amphibian Declines

The threat currently facing amphibians are unprecedented. At least 200 species have become extinct in recent years, prompting some to compare this “Sixth Extinction Crisis” to the disappearance of the dinosaurs.  Read More »

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Facts – the World’s Largest Rattler

Eastern DiamondbackToday I’d like to cover a snake that, while not suitable as a pet, stands out in the minds of many as North America’s most impressive serpent – the Eastern Diamondback (Crotalus adamanteus). In my youth, the nearby Staten Island Zoo’s Reptile House was under the direction of the legendary Carl Kauffeld.  The collection contained every known rattlesnake species but, somehow, a massive pair of Eastern Diamondbacks stood apart.  Several years ago, I was thrilled to be chosen as consultant for the renovation of this building , and Rattlesnakes, including the Eastern Diamondback, again take center stage there.


The record length of this largest of the world’s 33 rattlesnake species is 8 feet, 3 inches; most adults top out at 3-6 feet.   In the USA, only the Indigo, Bull, Gopher and Black Rat Snakes approach or, very rarely, exceed this measurement.

The background color of this heavy-bodied, venomous snake ranges from olive through brown to (rarely) near-black.  The back is patterned in white-centered dark diamonds that are sharply outlined in cream or yellow.

Captives have lived in excess of 22 years, but longevity in the wild has not been well-studied. Read More »

Lizard Conservation in the USA – 2012 Declared “Year of the Lizard”

Collared LizardThe Partnership for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC), a group comprised of private citizens, herpetologists, environmental organizations and others, has made great progress in the 10 years since its inception. 2011’s “Year of the Turtle” effort was especially effective in raising support for tortoise and turtle conservation. This year, the group has turned its attention to lizards, with an emphasis on North America’s many unique and imperiled species.

Lizard Conservation Overview

In the eye of the general public, lizards do not suffer the “image problem” that besets snakes, yet they lack the appeal of turtles and frogs. And so their conservation needs are, with few exceptions, not well-known. I sometimes wonder if the high visibility of a few common anoles and geckos in warm locales leads some (non-herp-oriented) people to regard lizard populations as relatively secure.  Read More »

Leopard Frog Shocker – a New Species is Discovered in New York City

Northern Leopard FrogsAs a native of NYC, I’m no stranger to the natural wonders to be found there.  In my time, I’ve filled quite a few notebooks with pleasant surprises…coyotes in Manhattan, Pine Voles in the Bronx, Red Salamanders on Staten Island, 1,000+ insect species, 13 herps, 250+ birds, red and gray fox on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo, and many more.  New species have been discovered as well, but most have been small and secretive, such as the undescribed centipede recently found living in Central Park.  But the existence of a sizable, gaudy frog that calls loudly each spring, living undetected within city limits, took the herpetological community very much by surprise.

Sharp Ears Lead to a New Species

Northern Leopard Frogs, Rana (Lithobates) pipiens, have been recorded in NYC, but are rarely encountered today.  The area also forms the northernmost limit of the range of the Southern Leopard Frog, R. pipiens; never common, it may now be locally extinct.

It was during a search for Leopard Frogs in the NYC borough of Staten Island that a Rutgers’ University doctoral student noticed that the frog calls he was hearing were unique… similar to, yet different from, those of both Northern and Southern Frogs.  Hybrids, perhaps? Read More »

Dart Poison Frog Care and Natural History – An Overview

Dendrobates auratusPoison Frogs (also known as Dart or Arrow Poison Frogs) exhibit an amazing array of colors and patterns – some so spectacular as to appear unreal. What’s more, they are active by day, exhibit complex social behaviors, and care for their tadpoles in “mammal-like” fashion…and are not at all shy about doing so. Small wonder they are among the most desirable of all amphibian pets! Once considered delicate captives, Poison Frogs are now regularly bred in captivity and may live to age 15 or beyond.

The following information can be applied to most available species, including Blue, Green and Black, Strawberry, Golden, and Phantasmal Poison Frogs. However, details vary; please write in for information concerning individual species.

Natural History

These 0.75 – 2 inch-long beauties are native to Central and South America. Identification by physical appearance alone is difficult, as some species exhibit a great many color variations. Their taxonomy is in flux, with various authorities recognizing between 180 and 300+ species. Read More »

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