El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center
At the end of July, I had the opportunity to travel to the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC for short) in El Valle de Anton, Panama, to get up to speed on their conservation efforts for the Panamanian Golden Frog and other threatened Panamanian amphibians.
Arriving in Panama is always like a homecoming for me. I have travelled to Panama many times over the last 10 years and have fallen in love with this country and its people. This is the first time I had been in quite a while, and I was very excited to see the progress at EVACC and the overall growth that has been happening in the sleepy little town of El Valle. After a three-hour bus ride from the city, I arrived in the heart of El Valle, which is a small town located in the crater of what is now an extinct volcano.
The following morning, I was picked up by Heidi Ross and Edgardo Griffith, longtime friends and the combined backbone of the EVACC facilities. Heidi is EVACC’s director, and her husband Edgardo has been instrumental in the creation and development of the facility since the beginning.
Upon arriving at EVACC, the first thing I noticed was frogs…lots and LOTS of FROGS! This year has seen their most successful breeding efforts for both species of golden frog (Atelopus zeteki and Atelopus varius). They had nearly 1,500 little golden frogs, definitely a good sign for the future of their captive breeding program and hope for eventual release back into the wild. Aside from the labs which house the breeding space for golden frogs and other endangered species, like the horned marsupial frog (Gastrotheca cornuta) that carries its young in a special pouch on the mother’s back, there is also a public exhibit housing over a dozen species of native Panamanian frogs. One of my “assignments” while down there was to assist in getting the large, central Panamanian golden frog exhibit back up and running so it could be visible for National Golden Frog Day. The Panamanian golden frog is a national symbol and has been revered in Panama since pre-Columbian times, and EVACC is currently the only place in Panama where people can see them. Starting several years ago, a National Golden Frog Day has been celebrated every August 14 to celebrate and raise awareness of the plight of these beautiful animals. There is even a Golden Frog Parade through the center of El Valle! Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there on Golden Frog Day; however, other members of the Project Golden Frog Team did attend the festivities.
I spent just over a week at EVACC during this trip, the entire time working in EVACC helping get improve the golden frog exhibit, installing new backdrops on several exhibits, and assisting with various other things they needed extra hands for. Seeing the success they’ve had with breeding and rearing of golden frogs firsthand gives me hope that soon efforts to get these animals back into their native streams will move ahead full-steam and that one day people can again view these beautiful animals in the wild. The support raised through Quarters for Conservation will go a long way toward making that happen, so thank you for your votes for Project Golden Frog!
Robert L. Hill
Assistant Curator of Herpetology