The World’s Largest Frog – Working with the Massive Goliath Frog

Goliath FrogHello, Frank Indiviglio here. As a child, my information on the Goliath Frog, Conraua goliath, was limited to a few brief sentences hidden away in various books, but this was enough to spark my interest.  Eventually, a life-sized sculpture of one at the American Museum of Natural History (please see photo) gave me some idea of just how impressive a creature it was, and my desire to learn more intensified.  Happily, I found a job at the Bronx Zoo shortly after a group of Goliath Frogs arrived there from Cameroon, and I was able to indulge my passion.  One of my new charges spanned 25 inches with legs extended…nothing, not even the enormous African Bullfrogs and Marine Toads (or, for that matter, Leatherback Turtles!) that I had already handled prepared me for the sight of that amazing animal.

The Goliath Frog Exhibit

I first started working with Goliath Frogs in 1983, at which time we knew little about their natural history or captive needs. Unfortunately, not much has changed since, although field research completed in 1985 (Sabater-Pi, Contribution to the Biology of the Giant Frog, Amphibia-Reptilia, 6(2), 143-153) has filled in some of the blanks. 

The new Goliath Frogs, collected as adults in Cameroon, were shy and high strung, and prone to wild, injury-producing leaps when disturbed. We assumed, therefore, that the zoo’s noisy, crowded Reptile House would not prove an ideal location for their exhibit. Therefore, the curator commandeered an exhibit at the relatively-ignored Aquatic Bird House. Goliath Frogs are habitat specialists, so their exhibit was arranged accordingly, and outfitted with a waterfall and a swift, rocky stream bordered by dense thickets of live plants. In keeping with what little information was available, the water was maintained at a slightly acidic pH. Read More »

Monitor Lizard Care, Natural History and Behavior – An Overview

Nile MonitorHello, Frank Indiviglio here. I’ve had the good fortune of caring for 15-20 monitor species during my zoo career. From the diminutive Storr’s to the massive Water, Lace, Crocodile and Komodo Monitors, all have instilled in me the feeling that they were, somehow, “more complicated” than other reptiles. Indeed, recent studies have confirmed that they are, among lizards, highly advanced.  While some are too large for the average household, several moderately-sized and even dwarf varieties are being bred by hobbyists, and all make fascinating and responsive captives.

The following information can be applied to the care of Savannah, Black Tree, Nile, Merten’s and most other monitors.  However, details vary; please post below for information on individual species, and be sure to add your own thoughts and observations on monitor lizard care.

Natural History

Seventy-three monitor species (Family Varanidae) range across Asia, Africa and Australia. Nile Monitors (Varanus niloticus), introduced to south Florida, are a major environmental concern there.  Lace Monitors (V. varius) and other large speciesare usually the dominant predators in their habitats.  While most dwell in warm regions, Desert Monitor (V. griseus) populations in Kazakhstan are adapted to Vermont-type winters.  Read More »

The Best Filters for Axolotls, Clawed Frogs, Newts and Other Amphibians

BullfrogHello, Frank Indiviglio here. With their highly-permeable skins, amphibians absorb ammonia and other pollutants over a greater surface area than do fishes.  Surinam Toads, Axolotls, tadpoles and other aquatic amphibians are most at risk from poor water quality, but even terrestrial species such as toads and Fire Salamanders can quickly succumb to water-borne toxins while soaking in terrarium pools. Keeping their water clean, both visibly and chemically, can be quite a challenge. 

General Considerations

Natural History

Your pet’s natural history will determine the type of filter that should be used.  For example, newts and Dwarf Clawed Frogs will be stressed by fast currents, Hellbenders are extra-sensitive to water quality, many species are prone to bacterial attack in highly-oxygenated waters, and so on.  Please post below if you need help in selecting a filter. 

Types of Filtration

Biological filtration, wherein aerobic bacteria convert ammonia to less harmful compounds (nitrites and nitrates), is the most important of the three basic filtration processes. Ammonia enters the water via dead animals and plants, uneaten food and the occupants’ waste products. The organisms involved in the process, Nitrosomas and Nitrobacter bacteria, live on substrates that are bathed with oxygenated water (i.e. gravel, filter pads). Read More »

2012’s New Reptile and Amphibian Species – Snakes, Frogs and Lizards, Which is Your Favorite?

Sibon nebulatus in bromeliadHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  An amazing array of newly-discovered reptiles and amphibians grabbed our attention this past year.  The unexpected discoveries of an undescribed Leopard Frog in New York City and a Rainbow Skink in an Australian backyard reminded us that wonderful surprises surround us, if only we take the time to look and learn.  Frogs that dye human skin yellow, snakes that specialize in eating only eggs or snails, iridescent skinks sporting tails twice their body length…the list is simply astounding.  Today I’ll highlight a few that have especially captivated me; please post your own favorites (whether covered here or not) below.

Australian Rainbow Skinks

2012 was designated as the Year of the Lizard by several conservation organizations, so I’ll lead off with 3 new skinks that turned up in Queensland, Australia.  The brilliant colors of breeding males lend these tropical lizards their common names (please see article below). 

The Elegant Rainbow Skink, Carlia decorata, was well known to folks in Townsville, Queensland, as a common garden resident. Upon taking a closer look, however, herpetologists realized that the colorful creature was an undescribed species. Read More »

2012’s New Species – Spiders, Roaches, Millipedes, Wasps – Which is your Favorite?

Trogloraptor marchingtoniHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Invertebrate enthusiasts have learned to expect the discovery of fantastic new species on a regular basis.  But even old timers such as I were shocked by some that came to light this past year. Large, claw-bearing Cave Robber Spiders, giant bio-luminescent roaches, brilliant arboreal tarantulas, neon-colored freshwater crabs, dive-bombing wasps…the list boggles the mind.  Today I’ll highlight a few that have entranced me; please post your own favorites (whether covered here or not) below.

Cave Robber Spider, Trogloraptor marchingtoni

The Cave Robber Spider, arguably 2012’s most “otherworldly” discovery, turned up in a place not known for hiding unseen species – southwestern Oregon.  In fact, not a single new spider has been described in the USA in the past 130 years.  Read More »

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