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AZA Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide

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  • Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide

    Edited by: Vicky A. Poole, National Aquarium Baltimore Shelly Grow, Association of Zoos & Aquariums Edition 2.0, 4 April 2012 For more information about AZA and its amphibian programs, visit

  • Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide, Edition 2.0 A publication of AZAs Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group, 2012


    Table of Contents Foreword...3 Chapter 1: General Amphibian Husbandry....4 Chapter 2: Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) for Amphibians.60 Chapter 3: Hygiene and Disease Management: Field and Captivity..119 Chapter 4: Amphibian Quarantine and Isolation Guidelines.129 Chapter 5: Creating Isolation Spaces for Amphibian Programs .......143 Chapter 6: Amphibian Population Management Guidelines*.200 Chapter 7: Amphibian Data Entry Guidelines **232 * This chapter has been previously published. The recommended citation is: Schad, K., (ed.). 2008. Amphibian Population Management Guidelines. Amphibian Ark Amphibian Population Management Workshop; 2007 December 10-11; San Diego, CA, USA. Amphibian Ark. 31 p. ** This chapter has been previously published. The recommended citation is: Schad, K., (ed.). 2010. Amphibian Data Entry Guidelines. Population Management Center, Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago, IL, USA. 7 p. Acknowledgements: The editors would like to thank the following people for their assistance in editing and reviewing this document: Daniel Beckwith (John G. Shedd Aquarium), Joseph R. Mendelson III, Ph.D. (Zoo Atlanta), Nathanial Nelson (Sedgwick County Zoo), Allan Pessier, D.V.M. (San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research), and Andrew T. Snider. Recommended citation: Poole, V.A. and S. Grow (eds.). 2012. Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide, Edition 2.0. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD. pp. 238.

  • Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide, Edition 2.0 A publication of AZAs Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group, 2012


    Foreword The Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group (ATAG) created the first version of the Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide in response to the global amphibian crisis as a user-friendly source to aid in the development of successful amphibian conservation programs. As the zoological community continues to employ resources and expand amphibian capacity, ex situ management of amphibians remains a crucial component to aid species whose threats in the wild cannot be alleviated in time to halt their extinction. With over 6,900 species of amphibians in the world, there is still much to be learned about their natural history and captive husbandry requirements.1 This lack of information and expertise can impede the urgent action needed for the 500+ threatened species in risk of disappearing within the immediate future. The zoological community and private sector have made great strides within the last two decades regarding amphibian husbandry and reproduction techniques, and we continue to develop new and innovative methods each year. However, as amphibian populations wane, we must quickly and effectively pool our resources, share our expertise, and learn from our experiences to effectively remain ahead of the extinction tide. Hopefully this second edition of the Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide will not only serve as a resource for amphibian husbandry and management, but will help others solve challenges and create additional space for species in need of immediate conservation. In addition to this resource guide, the ATAG has produced numerous materials over the past few years to help develop successful amphibian conservation and/or research programs (either in situ or ex situ; internationally or domestically). These publications include the Action Plan for Ex Situ Amphibian Conservation in the AZA Community (2007), a detailed description of current amphibian collections and spaces within the AZA community; the Conservation Resource Manual (2007) to aid in the development of successful amphibian conservation programs that fit into institutions collection plans, which are appropriate for different levels of resources, and provides species specific action plans and husbandry manuals; the ATAG Regional Collection Plan (2008) to guide AZA institutions in collection planning, species management, research and educational outreach; and Taxon Management Plans for North American and Caribbean species that have been identified as priority species for conservation action. The AZA has also published Amphibian Conservation: 2010 Highlights and Accomplishments, which provides excellent examples of in situ and ex situ amphibian programs/techniques which could be applied to new programs in the future. All of these resources can be accessed at: or In addition, the ATAG recommends the AZA Professional Development Committees Amphibian Biology, Conservation, and Management course ( to improve amphibian husbandry techniques and to benefit from interacting with other amphibian herpetologists, as well as participate in networking opportunities at the annual ATAG meetings. The contributors to the above-mentioned resources are talented individuals who are always willing to share their expertise and dedicate time and resources to the world in which we happily share with amphibians. For their generosity, I thank them. The ATAG is here to help. Please feel free to contact me, Diane Barber, ATAG Chair, at [email protected], or (817) 759-7180 for any question or challenge, large or small. Sincerely, Diane Barber

    1 The taxonomy of amphibians is always changing; however, the ATAG uses the taxonomy presented by the Amphibian Species of the World website (

  • Chapter 1

    General Amphibian Husbandry

    Jennifer B. Pramuk1 and Ron Gagliardo2

    1 Woodland Park Zoo 601 N. 59th Street

    Seattle, WA 98103 [email protected]

    2 Amphibian Ark

    [email protected]

    A red eft phase eastern newt (Notopthalmus viridescens)

    (photo courtesy of Brad Wilson, DVM)

    Introduction Enclosures Water Environmental Conditions Food Natural History and Behavior Veterinary Medicine Literature Cited Additional Recommended Literature Additional Internet and Product Supplier Resources

  • Chapter 1: General Amphibian Husbandry

    Amphibian Husbandry Resource Guide, Edition 2.0 A publication of AZAs Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group, 2012


    INTRODUCTION There are many reasons to keep amphibians in captivity including for purposes of exhibition, education, conservation, preservation, and for hobby and personal interests. Historically, zoos have included amphibians within their herpetology programs and displays; however, as they become more conservation-oriented (versus the menageries of the past), zoos will have to alter their collections to reflect their resources and capacities to carry out this work (Rabb, 2004). The financial and spatial requirements necessary to meet conservation goals and propagate critically endangered amphibians are significantly less than those required for larger species (e.g., elephants); be prepared to commit sufficient resources and plan properly for long-term success. The Amphibian Ark ( has estimated that approximately 500 species of amphibians are in need of carefully managed ex situ help; yet, today likely fewer than 31 species are in managed programs (K. Zippel, pers. comm.). Amphibians comprise a group of vertebrates that display an enormous diversity of natural histories. Within the three orders, anurans (frogs and toads), salamanders, and caecilians, there are more than 6,900 species ( with potentially many hundreds more awaiting discovery and description. To give the reader an idea of how many amphibians remain to be described by science, approximately one quarter of all known amphibian diversity has been described in the past 20 years, with the rate of species discovery not yet having reached a plateau. Within the class Amphibia, lifestyles run the gamut from terrestrial to fully aquatic as adults, with some species even adapting and thriving in arid regions of the world. Reproductive modes range from the typical amphibian that is terrestrial as an adult but lays aquatic eggs that hatch into aquatic larvae, to species that brood their eggs within their vocal slits or special pouches on their backs, to females that are viviparous (give live birth). Within vertebrates, only fishes rival this wide range of reproductive modes. Because the ecological characteristics and husbandry requirements of amphibians are so diverse, it is impossible to cover specific guidelines for all groups in this document. This short guide provides very basic information on how to maintain captive amphibians. Good husbandry practices can circumvent many of the health problems encountered in amphibian collections. Where possible, materials and suggested suppliers are listed and in some cases, alternatives are offered for items that may not be available in all areas. At the end of the chapter, an extensive list of Additional Recommended Literature is provided for those who want to fortify their knowledge of amphibian natural history and husbandry techniques. It is recommended to communicate with others who have worked with that species (or closely related species or genera) in captivity and employ their proven techniques and avoid repeating less fruitful methods. If husbandry experience is unavailable for the target species, methods may have to be tested through trial and error and shared with peers. Twenty years ago, relatively little was k

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