Costa Rica’s Poison-Dart Frog: a symphony of colors!

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    In the rain forests of Central and South America there are about 190 very particular species  of frogs that make up the Dendrobatidae family.

    These amphibians are characterized by their small size, no larger than 5 cm, also most of them have bright and beautiful colors, and some species have special glands in their skin that produce one of the most powerful toxic substances known in the Animal Kingdom.

    However, the function of the poison is strictly defensive, because it prevents these frogs to be easily eaten by predators such as birds, snakes, lizards and other larger frogs. Since ancient times, the venom of certain species has been used by South American indigenous people in hunting activities.

    These substances can only affect humans if they reach the bloodstream, nasal passages, eyes, or if ingested, and this could only occur if the frogs are handled and then you touch your nose, eyes, or if the frog skin makes contact with an open wound.

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    These frogs live on the forest floor but they also climb on the vegetation at low altitude, and they are active during the day. They feed mainly on various species of ants, termites and other small arthropods.

    Reproduction is a complex event that starts when the female lays a small number of eggs in a damp place on the forest floor where they are fertilized by the male. Then, the tadpoles emerge from the eggs, and the adult females or males carry them on their back to the water bodies that are formed inside certain plants, such as bromeliads, finally they complete their development or metamorphosis. During this time, females return to lay infertile eggs every now and then, which will be the food for tadpoles.

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    In Costa Rica there are eight species of Poison-Dart frogs, distributed along the North side and the slope of the Caribbean and in the Central and South Pacific, from sea level up to 1,200 meters of elevation.

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    A natural treasure in danger

    Because of their beautiful colors these frogs are among the main victims of international trafficking of wildlife.

    Unscrupulous traders from North American and European countries, extract illegally and continuously large quantities of these frogs and other species (some with small populations or endangered) to supply the black market that unfortunately exists and is promoted by private collectors and many zoos and wildlife exhibits.

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    Although some of this traffic is legal and controlled, illegal plundering of species, both of live animals and different parts of their body is a real and growing problem in Costa Rica, which requires a serious intervention by the authorities responsible of the wildlife protection in the country (Environment and Energy Ministry).

    Unfortunately, many of these individuals die from suffocation or dehydration during this process, which involves complex packaging strategies to evade customs controls.

    It is vital that all citizens collaborate in protecting our wildlife and be willing to report such attacks to nature.

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