You are on page 1of 19


Franco Andreone, Mike Bungard & Karen Freeman
Franco Andreone, Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Via G. Giolitti, 36, I-10123 Torino,
Italy; email
Mike Bungard, The Living Rainforest, Hampstead Norreys, Newbury, Berkshire, RG18
0TN, UK; email Our intention is to provide of Malagasy frogs. Among
Karen Freeman, Madagascar Fauna Group, BP 442, Toamasina 501, Madagascar; email some basic information on these, education and public the conservation of the awareness play an important
highly diverse and threat- role.
Design ened amphibians of Mada-
Toby Marsden, gascar. With more than 235 This booklet, aimed at a
species of frogs found only wide audience and written
Thanks to in Madagascar, the island is in different languages, is
Gonçalo de Sousa Miranda Rosa, Paolo Eusebio Bergò, Cristina Girard, Jean Noël, one of the richest “froggy” intended to show the beauty
Ingrid Porton & Guillaume Zitoun places in the world. The and importance of these
frogs of Madagascar, how- animals, the amphibians, that
Photographs ever, suffer from a series are disappearing all around
All photographs by Franco Andreone, except for: Mike Bungard (pp. 6, 7) Karen Free- of threats, including habitat the world and are one of
man (pp.11 bottom, 26, 27, 28), Gonçalo de Sousa Miranda Rosa (p. 29), Ché Weldon alteration, deforestation, the most endangered ver-
(p. 22) pollution and collection for tebrates. It is not intended
the pet-trade. Therefore, in to be an identification
Printed on 30 September 2007 by Tipolito Subalpina, 10090 Cascine Vica - Rivoli (Torino) September 2006 a sympo- manual or a scientific book,
sium specifically dedicated although it has been written
© REGIONE PIEMONTE – MUSEO REGIONALE DI SCIENZE NATURALI – TORINO to the conservation of the in a scientific way. We hope
(ITALY) in collaboration with the Madagascar Fauna Group, The Living Rainforest and St. Malagasy amphibians was that looking at its beautiful
Louis Zoo held in Antananarivo, Mada- photographs the reader will
gascar. The ACSAM (A Con- fall in love with the Malagasy
Realised within the framework of A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of servation Strategy for the frogs, and will help us in
Amphibians of Madagascar) their protection. 5
Madagascar and Amphibian Specialist Group / IUCN
identified several essential
Front cover: Mantella expectata from the Isalo Massif measures necessary for
Back cover: Spinomantis phantasticus from the Anjanaharibe-Sud Massif promoting the conservation
T he island of Madagascar
lies 400km off the east
coast of Africa and has been
about 10% of the original
forest remains. Almost
half of this is dense humid
separated from the main- rainforest found along the
land for at least 165 million east coast. The south of the
years. Because Madagascar island is much drier; here
has been isolated for so long spiny desert dominates the
many of the island’s plants landscape, while the west
and animals are unique and is home to fragmented dry
are found nowhere else on evergreen forests and vast
Earth. Madagascar was once savannah plains.
cloaked in forest. Now only

6 7
The most famous animals Sadly most Malagasy people contributing to the loss of
found only in Madagascar live in poverty, especially in Madagascar’s special wildlife.
are the lemurs. At present rural areas. Education is Much of the wood from
more than 90 species of expensive and, though rainforest trees is used as
lemur live in Madagascar, a third of children are building material or as fire
but in the past there were privately schooled, wood by people too poor
many more different kinds, one third receive no to buy less environmen-
including a giant ground liv- education at all and tally damaging alternatives.
ing lemur which is thought only 45% of adults can Poverty is one of the driving
to have been the same size read and write. forces behind destructive
as a gorilla. Other extinct Increasingly large areas of deforestation.
species include the elephant rainforest are being con-
bird, which laid the largest verted into agricultural If the issue of poverty can
egg of any bird, living or or grazing land to provide be solved we have a much
extinct. food for a growing human better chance of preserving,
population and to grow and conserving, ecologically
Today the island is also fa- crops like vanilla and coffee important areas like the
mous for its endemic frogs, for export. Such conversion rainforests of Madagascar.
chameleons, geckos and leads to loss of rainfor-
tortoises. The biggest cha- est habitat and is already
meleon in the world lives
on Madagascar, alongside
the smallest species. 99% of
Malagasy frogs are endemic
and 95% of the island’s
plants are found nowhere
The famous “baobab road” An arboreal treefrog, Boophis
next to Morondava, W-Mada- luteus, mating.
The first people to ar- gascar. Baobab represent one
rive on Madagascar came among the peculiar biodiversity
offshoots of Madagascar, with
from Indonesia and Ma- seven endemic species.
laysia about 2000 years
Black and white ruffed lemur, In Madagascar there are
ago followed by Arabs and Varecia variegata. Lemurs are 18 ethnies or “karazana”,
Polynesians. Europeans first undoubtedly the most known originating from several im-
animals of Madagascar and main migration events from Africa
landed there in the 1500s. touristic attraction. and Indonesia started around
Now there are estimated to 2000 years ago.
be 18.4 million people living
on the island.
adagascar has in Madagascar (more than
always been an im- 235 described species). Sci-
portant place for entists expect this number
frogs. The earliest known to rise as more species are
ancestor of frogs and toads found. The diversity of Mala-
appeared around 230 million gasy frogs is truly incredible
years ago in what now is with combinations of bright
Madagascar. There are more warning colours, camou-
than 6,190 species of frogs flage, skin texture, shapes
worldwide, 4% of which live and sizes.
Frogs are found all over surrounded by farm land
Madagascar in various habi- that is unsuitable habitat for
tats, but the vast majority of frogs to either cross or live
species can be found in the in. It is these isolated popu-
east of the country. Origi- lations that face the greatest
nally the eastern coast of threat of extinction.
Madagascar was dominated
by different types of rainfor-
est. Much of this has now
disappeared, having been
converted into agricultural
land or being used for its
valuable wood. There are
still some large tracts of
rainforest left in Madagascar,
some of which is protected,
such as the Parc National de
Masoala (230,000ha). How-
ever some of the smaller
Boophis ankaratra. Dyscophus antongilii. The tomato frog
Spinomantis aglavei
areas of rainforest are home This is a frog species is one of the most known frogs of
from Ranomafana to several species of frog described from the Madagascar, and object of special
National Park. Ankaratra Massif, conservation interests, being the only
that are found nowhere else and inhabiting high frog species listed in CITES I. This
on the island. These small altitude rainforests. means its trade is totally forbidden.
pockets of rainforest are
While the adult Boophis out, so many species vary in
lichenoides is well camou- parts of their lifecycle. Typi-
flaged, the tadpole has black cally species of terrestrial
The widely dis-
and yellow bands. The black frogs living next to streams tributed and still
and yellow bands sug- lay their eggs close to the abundant Heterixalus
gest that the tadpole may water on the ground, while is a frog preferring
secrete toxins in some way, arboreal frogs tend to de- open and savannah
habitats, and does not
but as the species has only posit their eggs on the tips penetrate the close
The golden frog, recently been discovered or edges of leaves above rainforests.
Mantella aurantiaca,
is likely the species scientists are unsure of the
most requested by true use of such aposematic
the international
pet-trade. colours.

There are many different

One of the most distinctive ours for protection but use ways of responding to the
features of several species camouflage instead. Some same habitat. Many of the
of Malagasy frogs is their Malagasy species take their mantellas are terrestrial
bright colours. Many animals camouflage to an extreme, (land dwelling) and spend
throughout the world use not just having colour that most of their lives on the
colour to advertise their dis- matches their environment gottlebei. This species, banks of streams. Some
tastefulness to predators, for but skin that mimics lichen named “rainbow
frog” for its wonder-
frogs spend much of their
example poison dart frogs and plants (such as Boophis ful colouration, is one lives climbing and living
from South America. These lichenoides and arboreal spe- of the endemic frogs in trees (arboreal). But
of the Isalo, an arid
warning colours are referred cies of the genus Spinoman- sandstone massif in for each different lifestyle
to as aposematic. The col- tis). southern Madagascar. there are a different set of
ourful members of the fam- challenges – particularly
ily Mantellidae in Madagascar for reproduction. A ‘typi-
such as Mantella aurantiaca cal’ frog lays eggs in water.
and Mantella baroni produce The tadpoles emerge and
alkaloids in their skin; toxins develop (metamorphose)
which are distasteful to into froglets, which in turn
predators. Many scientists become adult frogs. For
have suggested that the frogs from tropical rainfor-
frogs gain the poison from a ests and from arid areas, water. When developed, the
14 15
diet of insects such as ants, laying eggs directly into young tadpoles wriggle free
which contain alkaloids. water may not be an option. of the egg clump and drop
However, some frogs don’t Either the eggs are eaten into the water to continue
rely on bright warning col- by predators or they dry to develop into froglets.
Other arboreal species tylus argenteus, where the
lay their eggs on leaves of male guards the eggs.
plants such as Pandanus
(screw pine); the water Clearly, Malagasy frogs are
held in between the base adapted to specific lifestyles
of the leaves acts as a frog that are dependent on the
nursery. Alternative nursery surrounding ecosystem,
pools can be holes in tree whether it is rainforest,
trunks or bamboo particu- swamp or deciduous for-
larly for frogs like the climb- est. Habitat destruction
ing mantella (Mantella laevi- removes breeding areas,
gata) which lays a single egg. which in turn helps deplete
In fact, to make sure that populations.
their tadpole has enough
food to help it develop, the
adult female lays ‘food’ eggs
for the tadpole to eat dur-
ing metamorphosis. Some
tadpoles are carnivorous
and eat insect arvae and
other tadpoles. Some other
tadpoles are filter feeders
while others eat both plant
and dead animals.
Like many other frog spe-
cies globally, several Mala- Tadpoles of Spinomantis sp. Mantella expectata.
gasy species still lay eggs Several mantelline frogs of Mada- A typical anuran
gascar lay eggs out of the water. tadpole that develops
directly in water or some
The egg clutch and tadpole thus in water.
use foam nests. The males develop on the ground or on the
of Platypelis grandis guard leaves. During the heavy rainfalls
they drop in water where they
the eggs and even the tad- continue the development.
poles until the end of meta-
morphosis. Egg guarding is
found in other frog species 17
around the world such as
Epipedobates tricolor from
Ecuador as well as another
Malagasy species, Mantidac-
One species, the climbing
mantella (Mantella laevigata),
lays its eggs in water filled
tree hollows. This means
that in order to reproduce
the species must have access
to several different habitats.
If these habitats are sepa-
rated by farmland or roads
the frogs cannot reach them
and therefore will be unable
to breed.
a major impact on the sur- dactylus lugubris). Ideally
rounding land; often these the environment needs to
activities break up the re- remain intact or we must
maining environment leaving ensure that patches of

he biggest threat to rainforest and other habitats small fragments of suitable suitable habitat are large
Malagasy frogs is loss to farmland in order to habitat for animals. Suitable enough to support healthy
of habitat, either by feed themselves and their habitats become separated populations of frogs.
deforestation or through the families. Farming practices and frogs find it difficult to
conversion of pristine rain- such as tavy (slash and burn reach their breeding places The more aquatic species
forest into agricultural land. farming) have a dramatic and cannot reproduce. This seem to be less vulnerable
Rainforests of Mada-
gascar are heavily Most of the Malagasy frogs effect on the environment, is particularly a problem for to habitat conversion as
cut to make space live on the eastern part of altering habitat not only for frogs that require differ- they can survive in most
for ricefields, to get
firewood and to the island where deforesta- frogs but also for Madagas- ent habitat for different life waterways, providing there
obtain charcoal. This tion is particularly extensive. car’s other unique species. stages. Some species like is very little pollution and as
is indeed one of the
the black and green man- long as there is rainforest
most evident threats
for the forest frogs Most of the habitat loss in Pressure on habitat such as tella (Mantella viridis) are nearby, preferably gallery
that are often highly entirely terrestrial during forest lining the riverbank.
Madagascar is driven by tavy or logging (for building
specialised and need
an intact habitat. poverty as people convert material or fuel for fires) has adulthood but as tadpoles Those species that are
are completely aquatic. adapted to arid areas are
Some tadpoles need stag- naturally tougher and more
nant water (Scaphiophryne used to seasonal changes in
spp.) while others can only their surroundings and are
develop in streams (Manti- more resilient to habitat

One of the last

rainforest parcel in the
Tolongoina area, SE-
Madagascar. Here it was
discovered one of the
most threatened spe-
cies of frogs, Mantella

change and degradation. able to increased exposure sensitive to chemical chang-
However, species which to ultraviolet light, which es in their environment.
have always had small can lower their immunity They can absorb chemicals
ranges or are totally de- to diseases. Such exposure from their surroundings.
pendent on pristine forest is caused by the thinning of Because of their sensitivity
are most at risk if deforest- the ozone layer, allowing they are often studied to as-
ation continues. Since only more harmful light to reach sess the impact of changes
a fraction of Madagascar’s the land surface. Pollution brought on either naturally
tropical forest remains, the from human activity is the or caused by human activity.
frogs found only here face main cause for recent rapid Fortunately the threat from
almost certain extinction if climate change and the deg- pollution is fairly small scale
the current rate of destruc- radation of the ozone layer. in Madagascar, probably
tion is sustained. because subsistence farmers
All frogs and toads have cannot afford fertilisers for
Frogs are extremely sensi- highly permeable skin; this their crops and commercial
tive to their surrounding means the skin easily draws farming is not extensive
The green mantella, environment; not just the in moisture and needs to enough to cause wide-
Mantella viridis, is one habitat but also chemicals stay moist if it is not to dry spread damage. The conver-
of the critically en-
dangered species of
and light levels. Frogs and out. As frog’s skins readily sion of rainforest into
Malagasy frogs. toads are especially vulner- absorb moisture they are farmland and grazing for
cattle has endangered many
frog species as they struggle
to adapt to living on land
modified by people. Some
species are quite tolerant
of habitat modification, but
those that fail to fit in with
people will die out in the
absence of the rainforest
they depend on.

Forest streams are the natural habitat

of great part of Malagasy frogs: in
some rainforests is indeed possible to
identify up to 80-100 species.
A frog-killing fungus Amphibians as bush-meat
become extinct or expe-
rienced dramatic declines
in population sizes. At the
moment there is no known
cure and the only solution is
to remove amphibian popu-
lations from the wild, taking
them into captivity until the

mphibians are expe- habitat is restored and the
A section of the skin riencing a dramatic zoospores (transmittable
of a frog affected by
the chytrid fungus. decline worldwide. part of the fungus) are killed.
The surface appears Apart from habitat Chytrid fungus has yet to be
highly keratisined.
alteration, one of the major discovered in Madagascar,
threats to frog populations is and many studies are being
the spread of Batrachochytri- conducted to monitor the
um dendrobatidis, a fungus health of wild frog popula-
that attacks only amphib- tions. Because Madagascar’s
ians, commonly called “Bd” frogs have been isolated
and can result in a disease from infections such as
called chytridiomycosis. The chytridiomycosis, it is
origin of this fungus is not unlikely that they would
well known, but it has been have developed any form of
found in many parts of the resistance to the fungus. If

world, in both altered and there is no resistance then ome species of Mala- ka”. Other species that are Hundreds of Boophis
goudoti being pre-
pristine environments. The the accidental introduction gasy frogs are collect- hunted for food include pared for cooking
fungus works by preventing of chytrid to Madagascar ed by local people for Boophis goudoti from the pla- (high plateau of
gas exchange through the would have a devastating food, particularly large spe- teau region, and Hoplobatra-
frog’s permeable skin, ef- effect on such an important cies of the genus Mantidac- chus tigerinus¸ a frog species
fectively suffocating the frog. and unique group of animals. tylus, such as M. guttulatus in introduced from South East
Where the fungus has been For this reason hygiene dur- central-eastern Madagascar, Asia. Over-hunting or col-
24 found, frog populations have ing field surveys is essential, and Boehmantis microtympa- lecting for food, particularly 25
been greatly affected. Many and amphibians must not be num from the south-east. when coupled with habitat
species have already been transferred from one site to In Malagasy these frogs are changes, can often threaten
attacked, and have either another. known as “radaka” or “baka- frog populations.
The pet trade Research
wild. Species most com-
monly traded are green
mantellas (Mantella viridis),
harlequin mantella (Mantella
cowani), the Baron’s mantel-
la (Mantella baroni) and the
expected mantella (Mantella
expectata). Golden mantel-
las (Mantella aurantiaca) and
tomato frogs (Dyscophus
spp.) are particularly prized
by collectors. Because they
are active in the daytime
and are brightly coloured,
they are not only easy to
catch but are also popular

pets. Due to such high A still undescribed nformation on Malagasy they breed or the kind

species of the genus
The harlequin man- etween 1996 and demand for these species Boophis. Recent es- frogs is limited as study- of habitat they need. This
tella, Mantella cowani.
This is the most
2002 over 140 mil- they are being collected in timates indicate that ing such a diverse group knowledge is essential for
a huge number of
threatened frog of lion amphibians were huge quantities and taking Malagasy frogs still of animals is a complex and protecting and conserving
Madagascar, surviving
traded worldwide. In 1998 consistently large numbers waits to be formally time consuming. Sometimes endangered frogs, so contin-
at only a few spots on named.
the high plateau. Until alone over 31000 golden of animals from the wild in finding them in the first ued research is a necessity.
recently it was also mantellas (Mantella auran- this way will eventually lead place is a major achieve- Although many frog species
collected for the pet
trade, but luckily this tiaca) were exported from to their extinction. There ment; some species for are protected by law it is
has been stopped. Madagascar for the global are 9 critically endangered example have an extremely almost impossible to police
pet trade. The illegal pet frog species, 21 endangered small range. In some cases collection of frogs. Most
trade is the most lucra- and 25 which are vulner- an entire species is only animals are smuggled out of
tive trade after the illegal able in Madagascar if trade found near one stream or the country so there is no
drug trade and is the major and habitat loss continues. on one mountainside. accurate census of exporta-
source of income for many Some species are protected tion. We just don’t know
26 people living in the third by complete trade bans or We still don’t know enough how many frogs have been 27
world. Because animals are restricted trade laws to about how many different taken so far or how many
so valuable in the trade too control export but this can species there are, the size are left.
many are taken from the be difficult to regulate. of their populations, how
here is no doubt that Approximately 10% of the
Malagasy frogs face original cover now remains
a myriad of threats; and around 2,000 km² of
the illegal pet trade, habitat forest is lost annually.
loss and environmental
pollution. We know what However, new initiatives
the threats are but the real such as the ‘debt for nature’
question is to how to stop swap negotiated by the
these threats from wip- World Wide Fund for
ing out entire species. By Nature (WWF) and the
far the biggest threat to establishment of several
amphibians and many other new national parks (run by
animal groups is the loss of the National Association for
primary habitat, particularly Management of Protected
on the eastern side of the Areas, ANGAP) have helped
island (rainforest). One of to slow the decline in Mada-
the most effective ways of gascar’s biodiversity.
preserving species in such
areas is to create reserves Other non-governmental
or protected areas and organisations (NGO’s) are
to save the small forest also working in Madagas-
fragments. In the past large car such as the Mada-
tracts of rainforest in Mada- gascar Fauna Group,
gascar have disappeared, Durrell Wildlife
mainly to make way for rice Conservation Trust,
fields, to get charcoal and Conservation Inter-
provide grazing land for national and WCS
cattle. to name a few.
behaviour and general biol- total trade bans. For exam- rainforests will lead to many
ogy, making conservation ple species in Appendix I amphibian, reptile, bird,
very difficult. Hence many are protected by complete mammal and plant species
of the NGO’s working on trade bans, and species in becoming extinct, as well as
the island are collecting data Appendix II have restricted contributing to soil erosion.
on the basic biology of frog levels of trade. However,
species. We do know that international trade may help To quote Madagascar’s
more than 80% of known preserve some species and President Marc Rav-
species of threatened frogs their rainforest habitat by alomanana “This is not just
in Madagascar are covered encouraging local com- Madagascar’s biodiversity, it
by the current system of munities to maintain the is the world’s biodiversity”.
reserves/protected areas, rainforest and therefore Madagascar’s amazing and
which helps to protect have a sustainable source unique biodiversity, includ-
populations. For some of income by collecting a ing it’s incredible frogs, is
species, particularly the regulated number of frogs. for everyone to both help
colourful mantellas, the il- protect and admire. Work-
legal pet trade forms a very Involvement of local com- ing with and alongside the
real threat. The Convention munities is perhaps the Malagasy people, we hope
of International Trade in most important step in any in a small way to contribute
Studying frogs in the The Madagascar Fauna Endangered Species (CITES) successful conservation in conserving this incredible
forest always needs
capacity of adaptation Group is an association goes some way to help- project. Throughout the island.
and long walks of zoos from around ing maintain populations world it is important to
the world that assist the by regulating the number understand how we fit into
Malagasy government with of frogs that are exported our environment and the
biodiversity conserva- each year, or in some cases implications of our actions.
tion by supplying funds, stopping all trade in them For instance, destruction of
expertise and helping to altogether.
run field research projects. A beautiful Mantella
nigricans, a typical in-
Successful reserves and For instance, recent recom- habitant of the rain-
protected areas cannot mendations have been made forests of northern
be created unless there is to suspend the commer-
firm understanding of the cial collection of Mantella
biology of the target spe- cowani and add two species
30 cies to be conserved. For of Scaphiophryne to CITES 31
many of Madagascar’s frog Appendix II. The CITES
species very little is known Appendices are lists of
about their distribution, plants and animals that have
population density, breeding restricted levels of trade or
Madagascar Fauna Group The International Society for
BP 442, Morafeno, Toamasi- the Study and Conservation
na 501, Madagascar of Amphibians Vertébrés: Reptiles &
Amphibiens, Muséum
Museo Regionale di Scienze national d’Histoire naturelle,
Naturali 25, rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris,
Via G. Giolitti, 36, I-10123, France
Torino, Italy The Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) is a network of conservation professionals working within the IUCN/SSC
framework to promote amphibian research and conserva-
museoscienzenaturali The site of AmphibiaWeb,
tion worldwide. The ASG strives to raise amphibian con-
addressed to the conserva- servation to the next level by stimulating, developing, and
The Living Rainforest tion of the amphibians, with executing practical programs to conserve amphibians and
Hampstead Norreys, detailed sheets and photo- their habitats around the world. The ASG has recently pub-
Newbury, Berkshire, graphs of all the amphibian lished the “Amphibian Conservation Action Plan” (ACAP),
RG18 0TN, UK species a comprehensive five-year plan designed to halt the current
extinction crisis. The ACAP can be downloaded for free
from This plan represents a template
for amphibian conservation at all scales from global to local
St. Louis Zoo The Global Amphibian scale.
1 Government Road, Saint Assessment
Louis MO 63110, USA The GAA webpage, for the threatened amphibians of the
The Amphibian Specialist ACSAM A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar
(ACSAM) is a project designed to achieve the conservation
Group / Madagascar Chair
of the amphibians of Madagascar. ACSAM is a monumental
c/o Wildlife Conservation Conservation International effort by committed individuals that represents an impor-
Society, Antananarivo, Madagascar tant step forward in implementing the ACAP at the national
Madagascar 6 Rue Razafindratandra, level. The ACSAM has the potential to serve as a model for Ambohidahy, BP 5178, developing National Action Plans for amphibian conserva-
Antananarivo 101, tion in many other parts of the world. News about the
Madagascar ACSAM can be downloaded at
32 33 A Conservation Strategy
for the Amphibians of