01/26/11

Brookstone to Discontinue Frog-O-Sphere kits

We were happy to learn that Brookstone has decided to remove the Frog-O-Sphere kit from its shelves.

In previous posts we’ve blogged about why we were against this product. Others have protested against the kits as well, most notably PETA, which organized thousands of calls and e-mails to Brooksone, as well as appearances of a giant frog outside the Brookstone headquarters to protest the kits. After 18 months of protests, Brookstone has decided to discontinue the Frog-O-Sphere kit.

Photo courtesy of PETA

Brookstone joins Magic Beans, Target, and other retailers that have stopped selling these kits, but according to PETA, Coach House Gifts is still selling frogs in “EcoAquariums.”

Why did we think these kits were so bad? Unfortunately, the promise of a true ecosystem was their selling point, but this promise was overstated. The kit was meant to more or less take care of itself, the snail eating the algae, and so on. But the snails frequently died so a key part of the “ecosystem” fell apart. As with any pet, it takes more than a simple gimmick, and usually a lot of work, to keep the pet healthy and flourishing. In many cases these frog kits were bought as decorations for offices or as spontaneous gifts for a child. Once the novelty wore off, the frogs languished. Of course, this can happen with any pet, but because the frogs were not bought in pet stores, buyers did not receive instructions on the proper care of the frogs. In addition, many frogs died on the store shelves or while being shipped across the country.

We haven’t kept frogs as pets and generally don’t recommend it. In some cases, the frogs may be collected from wild populations (not the case with African Dwarf frogs). Pet frogs, especially from these types of kits, may be “let free,” which often happens at the end of a school year for a classroom frog grown from a kit,  or when a child gets bored with it. These ”free” frogs can wreak havoc on native frog populations by spreading disease.

If you purchased a Frog-O-Sphere, we highly recommend you learn about how to take care of your frog properly. We’ve included some links below. If you are experienced in the care of African dwarf frogs, please help us out by sharing tips in the comments.

Care of African Dwarf Frogs

Keeping African Clawed frogs and African Dwarf frogs

African Dwarf Frogs Housing and Feeding

Frog World: African Dwarf Frog

Book from Amazon: Your Happy Healthy Pet: Frogs and Toads

12/17/09

Update on the Frog-O-Sphere Controversy

In September, we wrote a post about Frog-O-Spheres, a Brookstone kit (not sold in pet stores) that contains live African dwarf frogs. These kits, marketed as educational products, confine two aquatic frogs to a small aquarium, without shelter or a place  to hide.

These aquatic frogs actually need a gallon of water per frog in order to thrive, and it is recommended that they have some sort of water heating, as well as artificial light to simuate night and day because they are nocturnal. But the Frog-O-Spheres’ gimmick is that they are a complete “ecosystem” and have all that the frogs will need to stay healthy. In fact, if one part of the “ecosystem” doesn’t function (for example, if the snails that are supposed to eat the algae die), the frogs suffer.

Some people who buy these kits do take the time to learn how to care for their frogs properly and the frogs may live for a few years or longer.  But many people purchase the kits as an office decoration or as a cute gift for kids, not unlike the hermit crabs people buy at the seashore in the summer. Without proper care, however, the animals usually die within a month or two.

In November, after PETA received numerous complaints about the Frog-O-Spheres, they went undercover at Wild Creation, the company that supplies the kits to Brookstone. They found the following:

  • Hundred of frogs crammed into bins with dirty, unfiltered water.
  • Frogs that were rarely fed. Because the frogs were starving, they were feeding on each other and some customers were complaining about frogs with missing limbs.
  • No training was provided to employees. Live frogs were left for dead, tossed on the floor, or thrown in the trash.
  • Frogs suspected of being sick were mistakenly shipped to customers instead of being properly quarantined. Frogs were plucked from tubs containing fungus-covered decomposing frogs and were also shipped to customers.

In addition, the Center for Disease Control reported a week ago that a national salmonella outbreak afflicting 48 people in 25 states was connected to African dwarf frog pets.

Please see the PETA website for more information, including a film shot at Wild Creation, and suggestions for ways you can take action to urge Brookstone to stop selling Frog-O-Spheres.

image from frogworld.net

A healthy frog from frogworld.net

09/11/09

The Frog-O-Sphere Controversy

This past weekend, Susan noticed “Frog-O-Sphere” kits in a Brookstone store. The frogs were barely moving and seemed as if they were dying. She found this very disturbing and asked me to find out about it. Doing a little research, I found out that just this past week, PETA staged protests in front of Brookstone stores against these kits. The Times of Trenton reported that after the PETA protests, a store in West Windsor, New Jersey, was ordered to pull the kits off its shelves after the township health office flagged the company for not having a pet shop license.

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

PETA protest in front of Brookstone store, Boston (Minneapolis Animal Rights Examiner)

According to PETA’s website:

Recently, allegations have surfaced that Brookstone employees who see that frogs are languishing on store shelves have been instructed to put them ‘in the back,’ out of sight of customers, instead of contacting a veterinarian to get help for sick and dying animals.

Frog-O-Sphere kits, sold only by Brookstone, contain a plastic aquarium, two aquatic frogs, a bamboo plant, a snail, and living gravel. According to the company website, the frogs won’t outgrow the aquarium and may live for up to 4 years. The snail feeds itself and keeps the tank clean of algae and excess food. Living gravel acts as a biological filter, converting excess food and waste into a soluble form that can be used by the bamboo plant. The bamboo absorbs the waste, then releases oxygen, which helps the frogs and snail.

Keeping frogs as pets is controversial enough—a topic we’ll address in future posts. But I do think the claim that these kits promise a “complete self-contained ecosystem” is overstated. The kits remind me of the many pets I had as a child, such as the little turtle that sat under a plastic palm tree and lived a month or so. The Frog-O-Spheres fall into that category, despite the fact that the kits sound upscale, educational, and eco-friendly.

In the customer reviews on Brookstone, many people clicked “decoration” or “gift” as the reason to buy the kits. Most people also mentioned that the snails died within a couple of weeks. Unless the person who purchased the frogs is motivated to buy new snails (or get replacement snails from Brookstone), the water will soon become cloudy and the frogs will suffer, and the so-called “self-contained ecosystem” will fall apart.

From what I’ve read, African Dwarf frogs are pretty hardy and low maintenance, but they do have certain requirements that these Frog-O-Spheres don’t seem to fulfill. I looked at a frog pet site and found out that, for example, the frogs can live from 5 to 18 years, they need a gallon of water per frog, need a water heater for winter months, are less stressed out if they have artificial lighting for consistent day and night lighting (they are nocturnal), need plants and foliage to hide behind, and so on. If you have already purchased a Frog-O-Sphere, I recommend going online to learn about them or buy a pet care book about African Dwarf frogs.

If you are tempted to buy one of these Frog-O-Sphere kits, please resist. Go outside and enjoy frogs—in real ecosystems.