"Frog Blog" Interview with Kristin Laurie, Herpetarium
Another Wendell's Frog Blog exclusive interview, this time with Krissy Laurie, Reptile and Amphibian Keeper at the Oklahoma City Zoo about their brand new amphibian exhibit that opened on Leap Day, 2/29/2012. I had the pleasure of meeting Krissy several years back at a Midwest Partners for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (MWPARC) meeting near Carbondale, IL. She was there with a group from St. Joseph's College with a poster presentation about pesticides and Tiger Salamanders, and me also from Indiana starting talking with them and they invited me to go herping with them that evening. It is always thrilling to go herping, especially with new people in a new place. If you are not familiar with PARC, check it out at www.parcplace.org. You meet great people also interested in conserving herps and the connections can benefit the animals for many years to come. I am glad that after Krissy got her degree with St. Jo's, a master's at Purdue (studying American Toads) and a job with the Oklahoma City Zoo, she still took the time to answer my questions.
WFB: 1) Tell us a little about the new amphibian exhibit?
KL: "The new Island Treasures exhibit at the Oklahoma City Zoo is our frog and toad exhibit located in the Island Life building. All of the frogs and toads found in the exhibit are from islands all over the world. Many of these newly added frog species have never been in the Oklahoma City Zoo’s Herp collection and we are very excited about the new additions."
WFB: 2) What are the new species on exhibit?
KL: "The new frog species include Common Coqui, Strawberry Dart Frogs, Cinnamon Tree Frogs, Yellow-spotted Climbing Toads, Brown Mantellas, & Blue-legged Mantellas. We already had Solomon Island Leaf Frogs and Puerto Rican Crested Toads within the OKC Zoo collection and they fit right into the new exhibit."
WFB: 3) So what islands are the new species from?
KL: "The Strawberry Dart Frogs are from Solarte Island off the coast of Panama. The Solomon Island Leaf Frogs are from the Solomon Islands. The Brown and Blue-legged Mantellas are from Madagascar. The Coqui and the Puerto Rican Crested Toads are from Puerto Rico. The Yellow-spotted Climbing Toad is native to Borneo and Sumatra. Cinnamon Tree Frogs are found in Borneo and Sumatra, as well as part of the Philippines."
WFB: 4) What is the status of these frogs in their native habitat?
KL: "Yellow-spotted Climbing Toads have an IUCN status of Least Concern, but documents that the population is decreasing. The Cinnamon Tree Frog is listed as Near Threatened with a population that is decreasing. The Puerto Rican Crested Toad is Critically Endangered, while the Common Coqui is listed as Least Concern. The Strawberry Dart Frog is listed as least concern. The Brown Mantella has a stable population with a listing of Least Concern, while the Blue-legged Mantella is Endangered with a decreasing population. Solomon Island Leaf Frogs have a stable population and are listed with a status of Least Concern."
WFB: 5) Is there a captive breeding program planned for any of these frogs or others at your facility?
KL: "The only animal that is part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) in our anuran collection currently is the Puerto Rican Crested Toad and right now we are a holding facility with no active breeding. However, we are planning on letting our newly added species breed if the situation arises."
WFB: 6) Does the OKC Zoo house any other amphibian species?
KL: "The Oklahoma City Zoo houses many other amphibian species. Our amphibian collection also includes Kaiser’s Spotted Newts, the Hellbender, Axolotls, the Smoky Jungle Frog, Vietnamese Mossy Frogs, Bicolor Poison Dart Frogs, Fire Salamanders, and a few others."
WFB: 7) Was the Leap Day opening a coincidence, or to coincide with Amphibian Ark’s global event?
KL: "The Herp team had discussed the idea of a new frog exhibit and when we started to get things together to make it happen we realized Amphibian Ark was spearheading a Leaping Ahead of Extinction event. The zoo decided it would be a great opportunity to raise more amphibian awareness if we coordinated our new exhibit with Leap Day."
WFB: 8) In what ways does the zoo help amphibians through conservation?
KL: "When Island Treasures opened on Leap Day we partnered with news crews to showcase the new exhibit and describe amphibian decline which helped raise public awareness. Other activities hosted by our Education team provided interactive opportunities for children to learn about amphibian conservation. We continue to highlight awareness of amphibian decline and conservation through our zoo graphics located at the new exhibit. As keepers, we are always expanding our knowledge of amphibian husbandry so that we can continue to provide future preservation of these species."
WFB: 9) What sort of husbandry needs is required with the new frogs?
KL: "Many of the new frogs have specific temperature and humidity requirements. This means we must pay close attention to temperature settings/changes in the room, as well as, daily misting of exhibits along with humidifiers in the room to maintain needed humidity. We also must make sure they have an adequate diet by giving the frogs variety and needed nutrients."
WFB: 10) The activities sound like the day was full of fun! How exactly do you catch a bug frog style?
KL: "Frogs have amazing tongues that can fly out of their mouth to catch their prey. A frog’s tongue is attached at the front of its mouth, not the back like most people would think, and is folded back to the throat. So, when a frog sees a bug, for example, it aims and flips its tongue out to catch it. However, a frog cannot adjust its aim after it started. After the frog has caught its meal it sucks in its eyeballs to push the food down so it can swallow. To simulate, the kids wore frog masks (restricting them to forward eyesight) with party flickers, Velcro attached on the tips. These unfurled through the mouth. Laminated pictures of the prey (also with Velcro attached) were scattered on the ground. In order to catch the “prey”, kids learned about the need for a good aim. Some of the “bugs” were even on colored paper to simulate camouflage."
While checking out the Zoo's website I read a press release from last week naming the Oklahoma City Zoo as the third best zoo in the nation! I would like to thank Krissy Laurie and the other Zoo Staff for their fabulous work with amphibians, as well as all of the other amazing animals at the zoo, and congratulate them on this terrific honor. Here is the press release I mentioned to learn more about the zoo and their contributions to conservation.