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Old 25th March 2009   #1
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Default TreeWalkers project: Scaphiophryne gottlebei

The information below was posted by Brent Brock on the forum at TreeWalkers ( It's a good example of the kinds of projects that TWI's Amphibian Steward Network (ASN) is doing. If anyone is interested, I can also post some info on the chytrid testing project that they have in the works. If any of this sounds interesting, I'd encourage you to check out TWI. If you have any questions before you join, I'd be happy to answer, or find out the answers to things I don't know.


From Brent Brock:

ASN is planning a pilot project to begin a captive breeding program for Scaphiophryne gottlebei (Gottlebe's Narrow-mouthed Frog; Sahon'orana (in Malagasy)). We may be able to coordinate acquisition through a major supplier who can assure the best price and expert handling for animals delivered to the project and we will post updates as this develops. The animals will NOT be free and team members are responsible for purchasing their animals. It is impossible to say what the cost will be. I would guess they will be in the $20-$30 range but do not hold me to that! ASN will coordinate acquisition and shipping of the animals with some stewards possibly acting as holding and redistributing agents for other team members in their local area.

Right now we need to identify ASN stewards who will form the S. gottlebei Team. Any steward may become a member but each member should commit to purchasing 6-10 animals. Team members are expected to make a serious attempt at developing maintenance and propagation programs geared toward establishing a sustainable captive population of this species. As such, team members are obligated to share their experiences (good or bad) with other members of the team on a regular basis. At appropriate intervals, the collective progress of the team will be summarized and published in Leaf Litter.

Before deciding whether to participate, stewards should be perfectly clear that this is not simply an opportunity to acquire rare animals at a reasonable price. The point of this project is to demonstrate that the ASN is capable of influencing market demand for wild caught amphibians in a way that is positive for wild amphibian conservation. This is an exciting challenge and should be enjoyable for all who participate, but if you are not willing to commit a high priority to propagating this species and sharing your results with others, this project is not for you. However, given that this is the reason we’ve all joined the ASN, I don’t think that really needs to be said. Following is some more information about what little we know of this species.

Background and Project Justification: Scaphiophryne gottlebei is a small microhylid (narrow-mouth toads) endemic to a small area of the northern Isalo Massif of Madagascar. Because of it’s apparent rarity, small range, and collection for the pet trade, the IUCN Global Amphibian Assessment listed this species in 2004 as “Critically Endangered” (the highest risk rating possible) on the IUCN Red List. Subsequently this species has been found at additional location but still within a small area and has been downgraded to “Endangered”. Despite its conservation status, S. gottlebei continues to be collected in relative large numbers for the pet trade with an annual quota of 1,000 specimens. The potential effect of this level of collecting on wild populations is unknown. Although many specimens have been exported, apparently relatively few specimens have survived and successful breeding in captivity has not been reported. However, in the wild this species is an explosive breeder and there is reason to believe that successful captive propagation could significantly offset, or even replace market demand for wild caught animals.

Natural History: A good description of the habitat of S. gottlebei can be found on AmphibiaWeb:
and an even more detailed account accompanied by photographs is included in
Andreone F. (Editor), 2008. A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar - Monografie XLV. Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino.
beginning on page 143. This report can be downloaded here:

Very briefly, S. gottlebei is found in narrow sandstone canyons in the northern part of the arid Isalo Massif of Madagascar. Although the region is arid, these canyons remain relatively cool and humid with little direct sunlight reaching their habitat. Adults are reported to spend most of their time in burrows in the sandy soil of the canyon bottoms but can easily scale the sandstone canyon walls to seek refuge in holes and crevices, apparently to escape flood. Animals congregate to call and spawn in pools following rain. Tadpoles spend their days partially buried, head down, in the sandy substrate of the pools, presumably feeding on biotic films, but swim freely throughout the water column at night where they may be filter feeding.

Captive Care: As mentioned, we found no reports of successful captive breeding of S. gottlebei although specimens have been successfully maintained and spawned. Maintenance doesn’t seem to be difficult provided the animals are kept relatively dry, but humid. Keeping animals too wet may have contributed to some reported losses. Natural spawning has been induced by keeping animals relatively dry and cool during the Malagasy dry season and then, around October – November, warming animals and placing them in rain chambers. The one account of natural spawning in captivity we had resulted in all tadpoles dying within a week of hatching.

Joining the Scaphiophryne gottlebei team: Anyone who is an ASN steward in good standing can join this team. The only qualification is that you must commit to a serious effort to propagate your animals and routinely collaborate with the team to report and discuss experiences and results. Needless to say, you will also be expected to accession any animals obtained or produced in the ASN database. For now, we just need to make a list of people who are interested in participating so we have a feel for how many animals are needed. As per ASN guidelines, we should target a minimum of 20 unrelated founding animals which means we should probably try for about 50 specimens or more in the program to account for losses. However, there are no guarantees we will be able to obtain any animals, let alone the desired number. But things look pretty promising. At this point, let’s just find out who is interested and use this thread as a starting point for discussion.

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Last edited by Jennewt; 25th March 2009 at 01:31. Reason: omitted some
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Old 25th March 2009   #2
Michael Shrom
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Default Re: TreeWalkers project: Scaphiophryne gottlebei

S. gottlebei are pretty cool. I kept them for several years. At the last Hamburg Penna. show they were available for about 35.00 ea. My guess is their might be some again at the Hamburg show on April 25. They like it a little cool and might fit in a "salamander" room as easy as a "frog" room.

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