Kids with Pet Frogs and other Wildlife

Recently I’ve been meeting children at my Frogs Are Green table at various Jersey City events and this one young girl told me she had at home: fire-bellied toads, a lizard, fish, 2 dogs and her brother had turtles too.

Growing up my parents weren’t so keen on animals in the home and perhaps that’s why I love wildlife so much, watch nature programs, and have my own pets. Over the years I’ve had fish, turtles, and cats.

It got me thinking about all that variety from someone so young, and whether it’s a good idea for a child to be responsible for so many pets. In addition, I was quite surprised to hear she had frogs. At first I thought she was joking with me. But a few days later, I heard from another young boy that he also had fire-bellied-toads at home.

It’s not something I recommend because there are so many issues right now with frogs potentially carrying the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) disease and if those frogs were let go or escaped into an area unnatural to them, they would be helping spread the disease.

(To learn more about this, Save The Frogs has a great web page on this:

Chytrid Fungus in the Pet Trade

“As the trade of amphibians is highly unregulated, disease testing of amphibians traveling between countries and states is next to none. Many amphibians that travel often are carries of the chytrid fungus, which is greatly responsible for the amphibian declines around the world. Approximately 300 species have been detected with chytrid and it is now present in nearly 40 countries. In 2011, a study found that in many pet shops and pet expos nearly 3% of the captive amphibians tested positive for the presence of chytrid, and 13.6% of the collections yielded at least one positive result.” — from Save the Frogs

Frogs As Pets

I decided to look further into how common it is for kids to have pet frogs and found this informational web page: Your First Frog.”

It’s obvious from reading this page how complex taking care of a pet frog would be. Once you finish this page, I’m sure you’ll agree they belong in the wild.

Only those that are threatened with extinction and are being helped by scientists/herpetologists in captivity like the Golden Mantella, or those doing important research to help amphibians, should have them away from their natural habitats.


Here are some thoughts on this topic from David Veljacic, nature and wildlife conservationist

When deciding to buy a child a pet there some questions to keep in mind.

Is my child responsible enough to care for a pet? Never buy children pets to teach them responsibility. 

Is this interest a fad?

What is my child looking for in a pet? Does Your child want a playmate or a piece of nature? 

Do I have the space?

Does my child have the time? With kids enrolled in so many activities they simply may not have the time to care for the animal properly. Ultimately, the parents have the responsibility to pick up the slack that the kids may leave.

Can we afford the upkeep? 

And, if looking at exotics – Is it captive bred? Only buy captive bred animals.

Once You have decided to let Your child have a pet, You need to educate Yourself on the needs of the animal You are buying. You may be called upon to care for the animal from time to time. It is also good, particularly with young kids, to check up on the pets to make sure things are going well, so You should know a little about it. 

I have seen it happen many times with people who keep exotics, particularly reptiles and amphibians, where it becomes an obsession to buy more and more species. There is always a new color morph or new species available, and it can be very tempting. I recommend not growing a collection too quickly, a child can become overwhelmed before they know it. 

Do Your research! NEVER include pet store workers opinions in Your research! Pet store workers are there to sell You things, then sell You more things. You need have the type of animal You plan on buying researched before heading to the pet store, or breeder, and the only questions left should be things like…

Is the animal captive bred?
Is the animal eating/pooping properly?
You should also be allowed to inspect the animal for obvious injuries.

Many exotics that in the past were sold as “disposable” live for years, even decades. If You cannot commit to a long lived animal, don’t buy one. Never release captive animals into the wild. 


Tadpoles in Maine Pond Die from Ranavirus

An estimated 200,000 Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) Tadpoles in a local pond in Maine died within a few days (in 2013) from most-likely a ranavirus. A paper was recently published in Herpetological Review that is co-authored by Nathaniel Wheelwright, a biologist at Bowdoin College, along with the University of Tennessee.

“The dead tadpoles had signs of hemorrhaging in their legs and around their throats, and many had skin that was sloughing off their bodies”, Wheelwright said.

Wheelwright has monitored the pond for close to 30 years and said it was quite surprising. Usually there are 50-100,000 tadpoles and only 1000 may live to become adult frogs. But for all to die, very unusual. They did notice there were no leeches present.

There are other species who can carry the ranavirus, such as green frogs, bullfrogs, painted turtles and spotted salamanders* (*who were found in the pond and showed signs of suffering from the virus also.)

Here’s a video from Bowdoin College with biology professor, Nat Wheelwright talking about the tadpoles:

The good news is that this past Spring showed healthy tadpoles and frogs and no sign of any issues.

Do you think this was caused by pesticides and/or climate change? Too many tadpoles crowded together?

The differences between Chyrid Fungus and Ranavirus are:

Chyrid is a fungus and infects individual frogs who suffer damage to their skin. Once infected it impairs respiration and the frog dies. It has been devastating amphibian populations around the world.

Ranaviruses infect insects, fish, amphibians and turtles and infect larvae or recently metamorphosed individuals.


Save The Frogs Day Event with Mayor Steven Fulop

We all have something we’re passionate about, and it’s not always easy to get others to share our enthusiasm, but yesterday, Jersey City came out to learn about frogs, amphibians and enjoy the Earth Day / Save The Frogs Day event.

As the event began, we set out all the delicious, healthy food (some came from vegan, organic, gluten-free baker Chef Camillo Sabella), the wine and beverages, and the day’s musical guests, The Gully Hubbards began to play. People started streaming in. Artists, nature-lovers, neighbors, parents and children (some who take Saturday morning art classes at the Distillery Gallery) and everybody would say how great the space was, the music sounded, and how amazing the art was.

At about 5 pm, a reporter from Jersey City 1 TV (JC1TV) arrived and interviewed me about Frogs Are Green, what the Green Dream is about, and why it’s so important to save frogs. Then Mayor Steven Fulop arrived and we took some photos, and talked together about frogs. He was quite informed on the topic, so the discussion was very good. Then the reporter captured the Mayor and I discussing frogs and why we must save them. The Mayor moved around the gallery looking at the art, talking with others and the children also. Then we moved to the back end of gallery along with the two curators, Kristin DeAngelis and Gabriel Pacheco and the Mayor spoke to the crowd about frogs and amphibians, and the three of us spoke as well. The Mayor gave us proclamations, and we gave the Mayor gifts. A painted flowerpot (with flowering plant) by one of the children who is enrolled in the Saturday classes at the gallery, a Green Dream t-shirt, and one of the most recent Earth Day posters from Frogs Are Green, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault. It was so fantastic to see a crowd so into this.

Afterward, there were two environmental speakers, Michelle Anne Luebke, an instructor at CUNY and an environmentalist and Laura Skolar of the Jersey City Parks Coalition, who spoke. There were so many children at yesterday’s event, some who sat on the floor in a circle and were drawing with chalk and crayons. We did the drawing of the raffle contest and the winner was announced, but wasn’t there, so he will be notified. One lucky child receives a year of art classes at the gallery for free!

The overall harmony of the event was perfect. The people, music, food, and excitement with photographers and TV, made the event a thrill for me and everybody had a fabulous time. There will be many more photos to come (from the official photographer, Danny Chong) as well as video of course, but here are a few, so you share in the event’s success.

— Susan Newman, founder, Frogs Are Green

Susan Newman and Mayor Steven Fulop talk about saving frogs!

Susan Newman and Mayor Steven Fulop talk about saving frogs and their importance to our ecosystem.

The Gully Hubbards

The Gully Hubbards play at Green Dream for Save The Frogs day.

Gary Van Miert, Susan Newman, Dave Ace Case

Gary Van Miert, Susan Newman, Dave Ace Case

Thomas Tyburski and John Crittenden at Green Dream

Thomas Tyburski and John Crittenden at Green Dream.

Children drawing

Children gather to draw pictures, maybe of frogs!

Kristin DeAngelis, Susan Newman, Mayor Steven Fulop, Gabriel Pacheco

Kristin DeAngelis, Susan Newman, Mayor Steven Fulop, Gabriel Pacheco at Green Dream in Jersey City.

Proclamation to Frogs Are Green and Distillery Gallery for Green Dream

Proclamation to Frogs Are Green and Distillery Gallery for Green Dream.

Jersey City 1 TV films, Frogs Are Green founder Susan Newman and Mayor Steven Fulop with Distillery Gallery curators

Jersey City 1 TV films, Frogs Are Green founder Susan Newman and Mayor Steven Fulop with Distillery Gallery curators, Kristin DeAngelis and Gabriel Pacheco.

Laura Skolar of Jersey City Parks Coalition

Laura Skolar of Jersey City Parks Coalition speaking to crowd.

Michelle Anne Luebke, instructor at CUNY and environmentalist

Michelle Anne Luebke, instructor at CUNY and environmentalist speaks to crowd.

Susan Newman and Chef Camillo Sabella

Susan Newman and Chef Camillo Sabella, who brought his gluten-free, vegan,organic, kosher-style and low fat macaroons!

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Mid-Winter Bullfrog Rescue

I’m so pleased to share a story that comes by way of Lexington, Massachusetts. Jack Stearns, a scientist and Meteorologist, has rescued a bullfrog in the middle of Winter. Below are the details, correspondence that I shared with The Wandering Herpetologist, Sara Viernum, who offers her advice.

Dear Susan,

I hope you can help me with some information.

Where my wife works in eastern MA there is a large garden wall.  Yesterday one of her workers came in and told her there was a frog on the sidewalk. My wife went out and there was a huge bullfrog on the sidewalk, sitting half in of snow.  By tracing back his path he saw the frog had come out of a huge crack in the wall.  We have had brutal weather the last few weeks with temps as low as -10F with heavy snow.

Because the frog would not survive where it was, (i.e a busy sidewalk and a street treated with chemicals) one of my wife’s coworkers placed the frog in a container, using rubber gloves and brought him home. We are frog and toad people so we are very familiar with their needs and habitats, however a frog appearing on your doorstep in the heart of winter is a new one!

The frog is OK and looks in good shape and very plump. He had no signs of any injury, his eyes are clear and he has a moist skin and is very lethargic, which I would expect being in semi-hibernation.  I placed him in cold water up to his jaw and put him in our coal cellar which is at a constant 34 degrees since I didn’t want to warm him up to wake him up.

Obviously everything is frozen solid so the only choice I have is to keep him where he is.  I looked on him this morning and he definitely is in a hibernation state and you see he is breathing very slowly.

Is there anything else we should be doing until spring arrives?  There is a small pond near our house which is full of bullfrogs and eventually we want to place him there.  The pond has a small current and I know the frogs burrow into the mud there to escape the current which is stronger in the winter.  Right now our frog would be in no state to burrow into the mud.

I hope you can help.  This guy is huge and a lovely specimen and we would hate for anything to happen to him.

Thank you, Jack Stearns, Lexington, MA

bullfrog in lexington MA


Susan with Frogs Are Green forwarded me your email about the bullfrog.  Bullfrogs usually hibernate in the mud in a pond in the wild.  Offering your frog wet/moist soil to burrow into might help.

A side note: Bullfrogs are known chytrid fungus carriers.  It’s usually not a good idea to relocate any amphibian to another wetland because of the risk of spreading a disease to another population.  But I know that allowing an animal to perish instead is not a good option either.  I would suggest contacting a local nature center to see if they would be interested in taking the frog.

Thanks for being a friend of amphibians.


Sara E. Viernum

The Wandering Herpetologist



Thank you for response.  I will introduce some moist soil into his container.  He seems to be doing OK so giving him the soil may increase his chances of survival for the next couple of months.

I did not know about the fungus thus I will not put him in the pond near our house in the Spring. The last thing I want is to start an epidemic in another pond. The frogs in that pond are huge and it is fun to hear them croak in the late Spring and early summer and I don’t want to jeopardize those wonderful sounds.

Where our frog was found by my wife on the sidewalk, is not too far from a small pond near the building where my wife works.  It is the only body of water anywhere near the area and had bullfrogs in it.  Would it be OK to release him back to that pond since that is where he likely came from?

Another alternative is if I can’t find a local nature center, I have very small manmade pond in my Hostas garden.  Maybe he would be happy there in the warm weather, maybe he could control my slug and bug problem.

I will keep you posted on our progress.

My wife and I have always been partial to frogs and toads. Where we spent summers on Chatham, MA the house bordered a pond that was full of Spring peepers in the spring and sounds of Green and Bullfrogs in the summer.

Being a scientist myself (Meteorologist), I am well aware of the environment around me and that we all are stewards of this Planet.

Thanks again, Jack


Thanks for considering the impacts of introducing the frog into a new population could cause.

I’d think releasing it in the pond nearest the location it was found would be fine.  But he would definitely help control insects in your pond.  The only concern would be him surviving in it next winter.  The pond would need to have enough debris (leaf litter, mud) and deep enough not to freeze solid for it to hibernate in.  
Best of luck.



Susan and Sara,

Just a note on how Bartholomew is doing.  The name comes from a pamphlet printed in 1918 called Bartholomew Bullfrog.

In addition to the assistance I received from you two, I also have been getting help from a gentleman in Rockport, MA who oversees the Vernal Pool program in that town.

Right now the Bullfrog is in a large flat container filled with water with soil on one half of the bottom. Once he was transferred to the tank he took a few strokes then settled to the bottom on the end with no soil where he is definitely in a state of hibernation. He looks good and with a little bit of luck we are all set until Spring. Attached is a picture taken this morning.

He has become quite a celebrity where my wife works since most people there now have heard him being found and are curious on how he is doing.

Thanks again for all your help and I will keep you posted on his progress.


bullfrog rescued in winter MA

Update: 1.20.2014


Bartholomew continues to do well.

He started to shed is skin so at the suggestion of Sara I moved him into another tank since she said that bacteria could grow in the dead skin and the water could become a little funky.

Moved him in on Saturday.  This critter is strong!  He is definitely healthy!

Then yesterday he did a sneak out. He managed to lift the corner of the tank top and climb out and went and sat in the corner of the coal room.

I told Sara about the sneak out and she told me that they are notorious escape artists.  She also said that he might be happier in a bed of wet soil.  I got some wet soil with no additives, fertilizers and the like in it.  I put him in that tank and we will see what happens.

With the colder weather moving in, temperatures which now stand at 39F in the coal room will definitely drop to near freezing the next few days and I am sure he will become even less active.

This frog is smart and he knows it!

Sincerely, Jack


Protecting the Unique Frogs of Andasibe, Madagascar

Devin EdmondsGuest post by
Devin Edmonds,
Amphibian Conservation Director, Association Mitsinjo

It doesn’t get much better than a going into the forests of Andasibe at night.  There are leaf-tailed geckos, mouse lemurs, sleeping chameleons, and frogs. Lots of frogs. More than 100 different species, in fact, which have been identified in the surrounding forests. This is more than a third of all described frog species on the island.

Most of these frogs are nocturnal, but a few are also active during the day, like the Critically Endangered golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca), which is only found in a small area near Andasibe in east-central Madagascar.

The conservation organization Mitsinjo works in the area around Andasibe, and is composed of 53 members of the community.

Our activities include:

  • Habitat management
  • Research
  • Nature-based tourism
  • Reforestation
  • Captive breeding
  • Environmental education

A group of our projects are targeted specifically at monitoring and addressing the threats our unique local frog species face. This includes the development of Madagascar’s first biosecure captive breeding facility capable of establishing assurance survival colonies of threatened amphibians.

Additionally, we conduct surveys to monitoring for declines and population changes. This activity compliments participation in a nation-wide early detection plan for the chytrid fungus Bd, the devastating pathogen contributing to alarming amphibian extinctions around the world. Fortunately, so far we have not detected Bd in Andasibe and reports elsewhere in Madagascar remain highly doubtful and unconfirmed.

Recently, Mitsinjo joined forces with the NGO Madagasikara Voakajy to contribute to the national conservation strategy for the golden mantella. Each month, we monitor three breeding sites at Torotorofotsy Wetland. This area is under tremendous pressure from artisanal gold mining, slash-and-burn agriculture, and charcoal production. Our habitat patrols help to ensure the breeding sites for this highly threatened amphibian remain intact.

To learn more about our organization like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Mitsinjo) and visit our website www.mitsinjo.org. For more information on amphibian conservation in Madagascar see www.sahonagasy.org

Andasibe Village

Andasibe Village, Madagascar

boophis luteus in amplexus

boophis luteus in amplexus

Captive breeding facility - Mitsinjo

Captive breeding facility - Mitsinjo

Captive breeding facility inside view - Mitsinjo

Captive breeding facility inside view - Mitsinjo

Mantella aurantiaca breeding site patrol at Torotorofotsy Wetland

Mantella aurantiaca breeding site patrol at Torotorofotsy Wetland

Mitsinjo swabs captive frogs for Bd

Mitsinjo swabs captive frogs for Bd

Mantidactylus species near Andasibe

Mantidactylus species near Andasibe

Mantella aurantiaca of Mitsinjo

Mantella aurantiaca of Mitsinjo

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Kihansi Spray Toads: Once Extinct in the Wild, Now Reintroduced to their Native Habitat

Female Kihansi Spray Toad with her young toadlet. Courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo: Julie Larsen Maher

Female Kihansi Spray Toad with her young toadlet. Courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photo: Julie Larsen Maher

Recently more than 2,000 Kihansi spray toads (Nectophrynoides asperginis), an amphibian species that was declared extinct in the wild in 2009, made the long journey from Toledo, Ohio, and Bronx, New York, to Africa. They were returning to their native habitat in the Kihansi Gorge in Tanzania.

These tiny toads are unique in that they live in a micro-habitat—it was created by the spray of nearby waterfalls in the Kihansi Gorge and covers only five acres. This is the smallest range of any known vertebrate species.

In 1990, a hydroelectric dam was constructed that reduced the spray of the falls by 90 percent and so lessened the mist zone that the toads needed for survival. The toad population was also devastated by the chytrid fungus, which has devastated amphibian populations worldwide.

As the toad populations were declining, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Bronx Zoo, and later the Toledo Zoo, in agreement with the Tanzanian government (and with the help of numerous organizations—see below), removed 500 toads from the gorge and brought them to the US. Special microhabitats were created for the toads and both zoos were able to breed them successfully.

Now over 2,400 toads have been successfully released in the wild. Before being released, scientists from the University of Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University of Agriculture certified the area as being free from chytrid fungus.

This is the first time that an amphibian that was extinct in the wild has been returned to its native habitat.

Organizations involved in reintroducing the kihansi toad to the wild include the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, the Toledo Zoo, Tanzanian government, World Bank, University of Dar Es Salaam, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wildlife Division and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania Electric Supply Company, and local Tanzanian villagers all took part.


Scientific American
All Africa.com 
Hudson Valley Press