Meet Mark, A Frog Conservationist!
We went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to meet with Mark Mandica, Amphibian Conservation Coordinator and learn about the gardens fantastic frog conservation program. We were in for a big treat as we had no idea how extensive this program is!
Mark took us on a tour of behind the scenes and around the grounds to see all the fabulous frogs! So let’ take you on this hopping good adventure.
We started out with the frog exhibits. These medium to large sized tanks have several species of frogs and numerous individuals. These exhibits were our first introduction to frogs’ amazing ability to camouflage and hide, even the brightly colored ones.
Luckily, Mark knew where to look and helped us locate them. The gardens have many species, including poison dart frogs, glass frogs and leafy frogs.
Next Mark took us behind the scenes where all the yummy froggy food is kept and where they breed frogs. All frogs are carnivores and insects are one of their favorite prey. The gardens keep worms, crickets and flies to feed the frogs. Yum!
After we checked out the frog food, we entered the breeding room. Whew, it was humid in there! The garden raises frogs for conservation and to send to other facilities, likes zoos and aquariums. There were frogs getting ready to breed, eggs, tadpoles and baby frogs. We could hardly contain our excitement! Did you know that there are some species of frogs that live as tadpoles for a year?
We then went in to the conservatory where we played spot the frog. The conservatory houses five species of frogs, all of whom you can hear but are hard to spot. Luckily Mark knew where to look. There are also turtles and birds in the conservatory.
After our fantastic tour we sat down to ask Mark some questions.
Us: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Mark: I have been with Atlanta Botanical Gardens for three years and I am the Amphibian Conservation Coordinator. I worked at the University of Miami and in the Everglades with frogs, salamanders and turtles. Frogs that live in puddles are my specialty.
Us: Wow! We bet working in the Everglades was cool. When did you discover your love of frogs? Which species is your favorite?
Mark: I have always loved frogs. I took a frog class at the end of college and that changed my life. The Surinam Toad (Pipa Pipa) is my favorite.
Us: Cool! How many species do you have at Atlanta Botanical Gardens? Do you have any poison dart frogs?
Mark: We have around 300 individual frogs and several dozen species. We have 12 species of poison dart frogs, all from Central and South America. (The poison dart frogs are not fed the flies that make them toxic.)
Us: We had no idea you had so many frogs! Do you have any wild frogs on the grounds?
Mark: We have American Bullfrogs.
Us: Oh, we must go look for the bullfrogs! Glass frogs are one of favorites. What is the purpose of the translucent skin?
Mark: The translucent skin helps them camouflage. The translucent skin does help us take care of them; you can see when they have eaten.
Us: Hehe, see through skin does make it easy! Tell us about the frogPod.
Mark: It houses frogs that the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Zoo Atlanta went to Panama to collect. The frogs were collected to save them from Chytrid Fungus. (The fungus is spreading through frog populations and decimating many species.)
Us: We have been to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens before, but had no idea that your frog conservation program was so extensive. Can you tell us a bit more about what you do?
Mark: People are constantly surprised when they find out we are involved in frog conservation. We offer education programs and classes for toddlers to college students. We even go out to schools and colleges. I designed a program for the Duke University summer program for teens.
Us: Wow! We might need to sign up for one of those frog classes! Do you travel to help take care of or introduce frogs?
Mark: We do help with native frogs up and down the east coast. We are also part of a head start program with Gopher Frogs. We breed them here then release the little frogs in South Georgia. Gopher frogs live with gopher tortoises in the burrows that the tortoises dig. We use a scope with a camera to find the frogs and tortoises. The burrows can be 20 feet deep. (You can learn more about this program here.)
Us: That is great work! Gopher tortoises are one of our favorites. We call them the apartment builders of the wild. We had no idea there were gopher frogs! How can people help frogs?
Mark: Letting your vegetation grow out and not using chemicals on your lawn is a good start. If you have wetlands or water, try to maintain them and keep them clean. You can add a water feature, but make sure you keep it chemical and fish free. (The fish will eat frogs-except bullfrogs.)
Us: Excellent! Thank you so much for sitting down with us and taking us on a wonderful tour! We were so excited to learn all about the frog conservation program! If you just love frogs you can learn more about the Atlanta Botanical Gardens amphibian conservation program on their website! If you’re in Atlanta make sure to check out this wonderful place!