It was looking like we were about to lose out on another ribbiting story opportunity. Our staff’s resident wildlife photographer was heartbroken, and we couldn’t find any of the chocolate-covered crickets that were promised at the door.
The Royal Botanical Garden members and press opening evening for their Frogs! winter exhibition was bustling with antsy children and photographers. There were no frogs yet. They were set to arrive that evening all the way from their home at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland zoo in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Despite the Royal Botanical Garden’s efforts to contact them ahead of time, border security held up the frogs for several hours. We were told that they wouldn’t be ready to open the exhibit until the next morning.
Just as we we’re about to leave, they began ushering the guests away form the empty exhibits. The frogs were ready to make their entrance.
We should have known that such colourful company would be fashionably late. The frogs arrived in lavish Tupperware, with their exhibit displays ready and warmed so that they could get cozy and comfortable for their three-month stay in Hamilton.
They don’t have personalities quite like people, or like we like to give or pets like dogs and cats, but they definitely have attitude. Whether that’s good or bad depends on the frog.”
Tiffany Faull, Exhibit Caregiver
While this isn’t their first time at the Royal Botanical Gardens, the exhibit hopes to introduce the public to some spectacular amphibians, but also raise awareness about global and local environmental issues that are threatening the homes of these animals.
Here are some of the biggest amphibious celebs to grace to the exhibit, introduced to us by Tiffany Faull, a recent biology graduate who travels with Clyde Peeling’s exhibitions to care for their animals.
“They don’t have personalities quite like people, or like we like to give or pets like dogs and cats, but they definitely have attitude. Whether that’s good or bad depends on the frog.”
American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
The American bullfrog may be one of the more familiar species to a North American audience, and perhaps her comfort in this environment is what produces her free spirit. While we were lucky enough to see her up close and personal before she entered her exhibit, it may not be long before she ventures off to try and explore the RBG.
“She’s an escape artist… She likes to sit and wait and bide her time, and then while you leave enough room to jump out of her exhibit and run down hallways. There are many stories from security guards of watching keepers chase after her.”
African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)
Jaba here has a bad boy reputation. African bullfrogs are famous for their size and appetite.… They can hold large creatures into their big mouths with two front odontoid processes (that are not actually teeth contrary popular belief). They are known to eat large bugs, small lizards, birds and even other African bullfrogs, so he travels alone. But this doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a soft side.
“He is actually an amazing dad. If he were to have tadpoles he’s the one takes care of them” explained Faull. “They breed after rainy season in these pools. He will actually dig out channels from pool to pool to save the tadpoles if it starts to get dry.”
Poison dart frog (Dendrobates species)
There are five different species of poison dart frogs, and the RBG is lucky enough to feature four of them, only excluding the famed golden poison frog, which is currently relaxing back in Reptiland. While these seem like a dangerous creature to handle, the colourful stars of the exhibition aren’t actually poisonous when bred in captivity.
“We don’t actually entirely understand how it works. Or what they are actually eating. They eat a certain bug that eats a certain plant. The plant will create a toxin that will prevent itself from getting eaten. The bug will eat that plant and the frog will eat that bug, and then it will take that toxin and secrete from its skin,” said Faull.
Their exhibit includes several bromeliad flowers, which in the wild, will fill with just enough water after rainfall for the poison dart frog to lay their eggs inside. After four to eight tadpoles hatch in these small pools of water, the frogs will return to these flowers and carry their tadpoles to a larger pool of water.
Ornate horn frog (Pyxicephalus adspersus)
Like the African bullfrog, the ornate horn frogs have big mouths and even bigger appetites.
They will try to eat anything that moves in front of them, including things that are too big for their bodies, causing them to suffocate.
They may not be too smart, but at least they got the looks to make up for it. Their colourful patterns are used to camouflage when they burrow underground and wait for their food to wander over.