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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

The Houston Zoo has just finished building its "Natural Encounters" exhibit which according to the keepers is a very new concept in zoos and will lead to research about large exhibits that aren't only multi-species, but also multi-class and multi-phyllum.

Of interest to dart froggers, is their intent to introduce PDFs, specifically d. auratus into the Rainforest canopy exhibit. Since a lot of what they are doing is pioneering work, they are having to make decisions about which animals to introduce into the enclosures and how they will get along. They are on the fence about the dart frogs for two reasons (from what I can tell): (1) fear of them decimating the butterfly population (larvae, I presume) and (2) fear of them being eaten by the resident lizards (sailfins I think). For the most part all their animals seem to be herbivors and I think the website has a somewhat complete list (I will try to get a complete list soon if necessary). Other issues of concern were (1) animal tracking in such a large enclosure and (2) the inability for visitors to ever see the animals. At the time, the misting system was out so the enclosure was nowhere nearly humid enough, but it seems that they are working towards a fix.

What I would like to know is if any of you have particular advise or recommended reference material that I can take to them. The keeper at the reptile house, who takes care of a d. auratus and d. azureus pair enclosure and keeps darts at home, is helping them get setup, but I figure the more information the better.

Initially, my impression is that they may want to go with a bolder frog that may be more visible and can perhaps eat a larger variety of insects with p. terribilis coming to mind. It also seems that feeding might be a challenge, but there is plenty of soil for local insect populations to take off. Aside from that, I would like to know what you think. Similarly, it looks like if they decide to go ahead with this, they are looking for a somewhat large number of animals so anybody who breeds one species in pretty good numbers might be able to help them with the project. It sounds like they were interested in rearing tads so even eggs or tads might be helpful.

Finally, I think they are also looking at keeping PDF's in smaller enclosures in the back that they can bring out to the visitors for presentations. Information about suggested enclosure setups that are portable, such as FCA's cubes, might also be helpful.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity to help the hobby and help an institution looking to do research about innovative animal enclosures. Your input is much appreciated as I plan on printing the thread and taking it to them once it fleshes out.

Best,

Marcos
 

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He may want to reach out to the National Aquarium in Baltimore or the National Zoo in Washington; both have wild populations of frogs in their rainforest exhibits. One of my favorite parts of attending IAD is going to the NAIB and finding the various tricolors and smooth sided toads that they have around the rainforest exhibit. They head deadleaves under the stairs in one area and there is always a bunch of tricolors there.

I am sure food is not a problem at all for the darts with all the decaying leaves, etc. feeding the arthropods, but I believe they still put out some fruitfly cultures. I'm also sure quite a few tricolors are picked off by some of the smooth sided toads.

Others on this board can give you a lot more information on the exhibits and what is loose. There are more species than what I have mentioned.

One nice thing about tricolors being loose is that they are loud, so you can find them if you know what to listen for. My personal opinion is that it makes the exhibit a lot more enjoyable and really adds another level of interest for visitors.
 

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I think a bolder, more colorful frog should be used. I assumed they were going to use green and black auratus which tend to be shy, and won't really stand out against the foliage, they usually become bolder in high traffic areas, but I still think they will be boring to a visitor. Terribilis would be a good idea, as they would stand out better and are much bolder. Plus they do good in groups.
 

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Is this an open exhibit like NAIB, or just large tanks cut off from visitors?

To break down their worries based on my expiences with NAIB:

They shouldn't decimate the butterfly population. Thats something to worry about with birds and bats. You guys seem to be looking at terrestrial species, and caterpillars are mostly arboreal..... some might get nabbed but decimating the population?

Resident lizards would probibly stay away from them in they are from the same area as the darts (they'd recognize them as aposematic ideally) and it it might need to be tested to see if the lizards would go for them. Otherwise you'd just need a lot of breeder frogs to flood the population quickly, then a frog or two picked off here and there isn't an issue.

Animal tracking.... in walk ins like at NAIB you don't. Unless they are working with an SSP or studbook species (which I probibly wouldn't recomend to put in there) I don't see why bloodlines would really matter, a large exhibit isn't the best place to try and track bloodlines. They will just become a population that interbreeds and over time will become inbred without new frogs coming in. The tricolors at NAIB were just some froglets pulled out of the hidden life exhibit where the original group bred like rabbits.... the tricolors did well and have become established and breeding in the main exhibit.

As for visitors seeing them, thats a matter of a big and bright PDF. Thumbnails wouldn't go over well, but some bright tincs or galactonotus might catch a number of eyes. The more heavily planted the "forest floor" is, the less likely they are to be seen. Lots of leaf litter is their best backdrop. D. auratus are "bright colored" on their wild backdrop of said leaf litter, but they loose their "brightness" when put in our extremely green tanks.

The tricolor at NAIB fit the boldness factor, its just that they look like mud. The morph there isn't terribly bright to begin with, but the species as a whole tends to be diet dependent on coloration, and in large places like the rainforest exhibit, you can't exactly suppliment their diet. I'd stay away from the diet dependent colored species/morphs.

I worry about phyllobates after the recent "finger tingling" thing. Especially if they are worried about them being eaten (but if the sailfins are from areas that have PDFs, they should know to leave them be) or what not.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
KeroKero said:
Is this an open exhibit like NAIB, or just large tanks cut off from visitors?
All,

Thank you for the great information so far!

Corey,

The exhibit is a large enclosure cut off from visitors. As far as I can tell, most sailfin lizards are from the South Pacific. Just wondering if you could elaborate on your "finger tingling" experience. Did you get a hold of a hot phyllobates? :eek:

Best,

Marcos
 

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Thats what I was thinking on the sailfins, but I have heard some crested bascilisk (sp?) called that as well (most likely mix up of common names).

As for the phyllobates... it was orange terribilis that caused a FrogNetter's fingers to tingle after handling (don't even ask me to go into this, he's nameless for a reason, he's be brought up on other threads plenty of times) then he licked his finger to see what would happen. :roll: Even CB, phyllobates (and most PDFs) can produced some toxins by themselves, some more than others (most not really noticable to us with CBs). Now taking the most toxic frog in the world and only having "some" toxins still makes for a not-so-tasty reaction. Who knows what these relatively "mild" toxins would do to an animal that doesn't have the instinct to aviod it, or any adaptation. Its like giving fireflies to bearded dragons, two animals from very different areas that don't mesh well (in this case, the fireflies kill the dragons in a matter of minutes, a little extreme compared to native species responses, which kinda know to aviod them anyways). Thats why a test might be in order to see if the frogs are on the sailfin's menu before introducing lots of them to the exhibit.

This is also why I don't think crossing animals from similar habitats, but from completely different parts of the world is a good idea a lot of times. An amphib can also give off chemicals and hormones in the water that other species from the same habitat wouldn't be influenced by, but could be detrimental to species from another continent.
 

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There are several crested lizards that could part of the exhibit
Basiliscus plumifrons (or one of the other basilisks) or helmeted iguanas (aka forest chameleons) Corytophanes spps are two that come to mind....

Ed
 

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Corytophanes cristatus is housed with them at NAIB. Also some anoles (Norops sp., N. bipercatus was the species I remembered), cone-headed lizards (something longipes), Polychurus sp. were all housed on exhibit with darts. So were a number of snakes, but due to the other members of this exhibit I don't think they'd be recomended lol.
 

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KeroKero said:
Corytophanes cristatus is housed with them at NAIB. Also some anoles (Norops sp., N. bipercatus was the species I remembered), cone-headed lizards (something longipes), Polychurus sp. were all housed on exhibit with darts. So were a number of snakes, but due to the other members of this exhibit I don't think they'd be recomended lol.

Those animals you have listed haven't been seen at NAIB for years. Most died from MBD. Some of the basilisks got their heads caught in wiring close to the ceiling.

My question is whether or not the tamarins would mess with the frogs?

Justin
 
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