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Behind the Exhibit: Poison dart frogs

Behind the Exhibit: Poison dart frogs

If you look closely in a certain corner of the rainforest building at the Tulsa Zoo, you'll spot something colorful -- dozens of poison dart frogs hidden beneath the leaves and ferns. But don't worry, these poison dart frogs have no poison.

"In the wild, they eat a certain type of bug that eats poisonous plants, and once the frogs eat those bugs, they have a very permeable skin, so they can secrete those toxins. In captivity, we're feeding them fruit flies and crickets," said amphibians zookeeper Chris Williams.

Needless to say, those aren't poisonous, so the frogs are not toxic at all but caring for those fruit flies can prove to be a real challenge.

"If they get too warm, they can crash; if they get too humid, they can get moldy and crash. Just like the dart frogs, they need a pretty constant temperature and humidity to keep them producing well," said Williams.

Williams says the frogs themselves, believe it or not, are fairly low maintenance.

"They don't need much, but we spray them down pretty well every day, and we check for eggs. We check under their coconut huts for a small Petri dish that they lay eggs in. Right now, it's winter time, so they aren't laying as many," he said.

Still, they have quite a few in the nursery, including one who's ready to join the other little ones. When they get big enough, then they are moved to the big rainforest exhibit.

"In the spring and summer, their main breeding time, we can produce hundreds of them. It's necessary because when they go out on exhibit, it's quite a large exhibit, so they need to keep a lot out there," said Williams.

Like many animals at the Tulsa Zoo, dart frogs are facing the reality of a shrinking habitat; some species have become endangered. Zoos not only breed them for us to look at, but also to preserve the species.

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