Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Front of the the PARC building in Panama

The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project seeks to rescue and establish assurance colonies of amphibian species that are in extreme danger of extinction throughout Panama. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Species Survival focuses efforts and expertise on developing methodologies to reduce the impact of the amphibian chytrid fungus (called Bd) so that one day, captive amphibians may be reintroduced to the wild.

The project is a partnership between the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Zoo New England. The rescue project currently has 12 endangered species housed in a 5,000 square-foot facility at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, and public exhibitions at the Punta Culebra Nature Center in Panama City, as well as the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Reptile Discovery Center and Amazonia Science Gallery. Husbandry staff from participating zoos regularly visit the project to assist with husbandry, exhibits, maintenance, development and field trips. The rescue project’s new laboratory for conducting research on the captive collection welcomes new project partners or research collaborations that use the living collection, prioritizing research that may allow researchers to conduct successful reintroductions of amphibians into Bd-positive habitats. Please visit the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project website.

Current Partners

Steering Committee

  • Bob Chastain, President and CEO Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
  • Steve Monfort, Director Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
  • Matthew Larsen, Director Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • John Linehan, President and CEO Zoo New England

Implementation Team

  • Eric Baitchman and Bryan Windmiller (Zoo New England)
  • Liza Dadone and Eric Klaphake (Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)
  • Roberto Ibanez and Jorge Guerrel (STRI)
  • Brian Gratwicke and Matthew Evans (Smithonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute)
  • Brad Wilson (Atlanta Botanical Gardens)

Active Collaborators
Gina Della Togna, Cori Richards Zawacki, Doug Woodhams, Phil Jervis, Jamie Voyles, Donna Snellgrove


In addition to institutional partners listed above, this work is generously supported by Anele Kolohe Foundation, Friends of the National Zoo, Minera Panama, Shared Earth Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Mohammed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, the Waltham Foundation, the Morris Animal Foundation, The Woodtiger Fund and private donors.


Becker et al. 2015. Composition of symbiotic bacteria predicts survival in Panamanian golden frogs infected with a lethal fungus, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 282: 20142881. Estrada et al. 2014. The Golden Frogs of Panama (Atelopus zeteki, A. varius): A Conservation Planning Workshop Final Report. Apple Valley, MN: IUSN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. Perez et al. 2014. Field surveys in Western Panama indicate populations of Atelopus varius frogs are persisting in regions where Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is now enzootic. Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8, 30. Pessier et al. 2014. Causes of mortality in anuran amphibians from an ex situ survival assurance colony in Panama. Zoo Biology 10.1002/zoo.21166, n/a. Kung et al. 2014. Stability of Microbiota Facilitated by Host Immune Regulation: Informing Probiotic Strategies to Manage Amphibian Disease. PLoS one 9, e87101. Becker et al. 2014. The effect of captivity on the cutaneous bacterial community of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki). Biological Conservation 176, 199. Cikanek et al. 2014. Evaluating Group Housing Strategies for the Ex-Situ Conservation of Harlequin Frogs (Atelopus spp.) Using Behavioral and Physiological Indicators. PLoS one 9, e90218. Baitchman, E. J. & Pessier, A. P. 2013. Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Amphibian Chytridiomycosis. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice16, 669. Crawford et al. 2013. DNA barcoding applied to ex situ tropical amphibian conservation programme reveals cryptic diversity in captive populations. Molecular Ecology Resources 13, 1005. Gratwicke et al. 2012. Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, Panama. FrogLog 20 (3) #102, 17. Becker et al. 2012. Towards a better understanding of the use of probiotics for preventing chytridiomycosis in Panamanian Golden Frogs. Ecohealth 8, 501. Gagliardo et al. 2010. Observations on the Captive Reproduction of the Horned Marsupial Frog Gastrotheca cornuta (Boulenger 1898). Herpetological Review 41, 52. Kilburn, V. L., Ibanez, R. & Green, D. M. 2011. Reptiles as potential vectors and hosts of the amphibian pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in Panama. Dis Aquat Org 97, 127. Kilburn et al. 2011. Ubiquity of the Pathogenic Chytrid Fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, in Anuran Communities in Panamá. EcoHealth, 1. Loarie et al. 2011. Global Amphibian BioBlitz. FrogLog 97, 48.

Additional Staff

Matt Becker

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