Golden Poison Frog

(Phyllobates terribilis)


Golden Poison Frog IUCN ENDANGERED (EN)


Facts about this animal

Unlike most frogs, P. terribilis is social and is active in the day time. Its size ranges from 1,5 to 5 cm. Its color is uniformly metallic, mainly golden yellow (but also green and orange) with no darkening on the hind legs or belly. It has tiny discs on its toes for clinging to trees and other plant life. The breeding season for P. terribilis is throughout the rainy season. These frogs can breed as often as once a month. The eggs are laid in moist places, like in leaf litter or under rocks. They are revisited frequently by the male to keep them moist until hatching. When the larvae are ready to hatch, the male frees the tadpoles from the egg mass with his hind legs. The tadpoles crawl onto the mucus secretions on the male's back to be carried to a larger water mass to await metamorphosis. P. terribilis eats fruit flies, newborn crickets, ants, termites, and tiny beetles. When handling those frogs, gloves should be worn (the toxin can also be transferred to food animals and even dead frogs are still poisonous). However in captivity the poisonousness decreases and in particular in captive-bred animals is nearly zero.

Did you know?
That a bony plate in the upper jaw, commonly compared with "teeth," distinguishes P. terribilis from other poison dart frogs? P. terribilis is one of the most poisonous animals on earth. The poison (batrachotoxin) that P. terribilis produces contains toxins that dull the nerves and produce heart and repiratory failure. The skin of an adult P. terribilis has enough batrachotoxin to kill 20,000 mice, or 100 adult humans. Two-tenths of a microgram of batrachotoxin is lethal in the human blood stream and each adult P. terribilis contains nearly 200 micrograms. According to recent research, P. terribilis may obtain its poison by eating a small beetle from the family, Melyridae. Embre and Choco Indians from Colombia use the poison secreted from the skin of P. terribilis, as well as of other poison dart frogs, to poison their blowgun darts. The darts are wiped over the backs of poison dart frogs after heating them over a fire. The heat causes the poison to moisten the back and becomes easily accessible. Once a dart is poisoned, it remains lethal for up to two years. These darts can be used by the Indians as an easy way to catch small prey. Also much medical research is being done with the alkaloid toxin, batrachotoxin. Researchers are trying to develop muscle relaxants, heart stimulants, and anesthetics from it. It has the potential to be a far better anesthetic than morphine.


Name (Scientific) Phyllobates terribilis
Name (English) Golden Poison Frog
Name (French) Phyllobate terrible
Name (German) Goldener Baumsteiger
Name (Spanish) Rana flecha venenosa dorada
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
© Brian Gratwicke



Range Colombia
Habitat On the ground in humid (80-100 %) primary forests, occurring up to 200m with about 28°C at daytime and 24°C at night. It is not known whether or not it can adapt to secondary habitats.
Wild population This species is known only from tiny areas on the Pacific coast of Colombia on the Río Saija drainage, in Cauca Department. Within its range however it is extremely common. The major threats are deforestation for agricultural development, the planting of illegal crops, logging, human settlement, and pollution resulting from the spraying of illegal crops. However captive breeding of this species is currently on the rise. The population trend is decreasing (Red List IUCN 2012)
Zoo population 276 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Golden Poison Frog


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 45 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
© Brian Gratwicke

Why do zoos keep this animal

Neotropical frogs are threatened by habitat distruction, disease and other factors. Zoos and aquariums keeping these species want to build up reserve populations and to raise awareness of the global amphibian crisis. Several zoos have also linked their ex situ activities with involvement in in situ conservation.