Hello humans,

Yes, I can make loud attention-grabbing noises too. While you make a groany one through your face hole, I just bob my chin and make a clicky-wood sound. And I’ll keep doing it until I get my point across. It seems you’ve got lots of things wrong about me and my kind. To start with:

We’re not just yellow.

I thought humans were obsessed with looks, but clearly not, because if you were you’d realise we can be brown, tan, orange, and even green – and that’s not even counting our undersides. So calling us “eastern golden frog” doesn’t let you off the hook either. “Eastern mantella” though…yes, I’ll give you that one. Another thing you’ve given us that we don’t deserve, is the worst case scenario.

We’re not being annihilated by that horrible worldwide chytrid fungus.

I sense an enormous “yet” looming like a frog collector (yes, I’ll get to you later), but here in Madagascar we seem to have been spared the worst of it. I feel for the poor frogs that have copped it through their keratin, but it’s not chipping away at our numbers for now. Speaking of other species, I know we look like the South American poison frogs – because humans and appearances, am I right? – but we just took the same evolutionary route to common sense: look at me, I’m poisonous! Well, less so these days, and that’s something else we should be hopping about.

You make us less toxic!

Our poison-skin is prey-powered, so if our menu of ants and termites is cut down as much as the rainforests, we have less to work with. So thanks for messing with perhaps the only defence mechanism we have as tiny frogs clambering over the forest floor.

Despite that, we’re not yellow-bellied.

Note the “forest floor” and “clambering” parts, because:

Only the kids like water, and we don’t really hop either.

After Mum’s left and Dad’s finished guarding our egg, the rain washes us into a tiny pool so we can stretch our legs. But we don’t even have webbed feet, so once we’re out of the kiddy pool, it’s all about finding the best leaf litter and logs to hide in. So what use is hopping? Actually, it would be great for getting away from you lot.

We’re the forest health meter, so stop stealing us!

You could just say we’re highly strung, but we’re usually the first to feel changes in weather, water and anything else affecting the forest. So a bunch of us could die for the greater good, and you’d know something was afoot. It sounds rubbish, but that’s the way of the poison frog – we’re descended from martyrs! What’s less good is when we’re plucked from our wild home and dumped in a tank somewhere for you people to coo at through your face holes. How will you tell what’s going on with the forest?

Well, I’ve said my piece. Just keep the above in mind, and on top of that: if you disagree, you’ll have an army of us contend with. (Yes, that’s the collective noun you’ve given us. So that’s something I can get behind, I suppose.)

TLDR

Latin: Mantella crocea

What? Tiny, mostly yellow poisonous frog

Where? Madagascar, mainly in forested swamps between the eastern rainforest and central plateau.

How big? 17-24 mm / 0.7-0.9 inches long

Endangered? The IUCN upgraded it from “Endangered” in 2016 to “Vulnerable” in 2017. So we’re going in the right direction, at least!

Probable motto: I don’t hop, have webbed feet, or like water all that much. Doesn’t make me any less of a frog!

They look cute. Do they need my help at all?

Yes – habitat loss is always a concern as it prefers a particular type of terrain, and tighter regulations are needed for the pet trade. For instance, back in 2005, the quota was exceeded because only the number of permits was tracked, not the actual number of frogs traded.

WWF has a variety of current and pipeline projects for conservation in Madagascar, and while the yellow mantella is no longer considered endangered, its critically endangered cohort the golden mantella could do with some conservation cuddles.

Just to prove I’m not fibbing:

Edmonds, Devin. 2009. “Extended distribution of two frogs from Madagascar: Mantella crocea and Mantella manery (Anura: Mantellidae)“. Herpetology Notes 2(53-57).

Edmonds, Devin. No date. “Poison frogs of the genus Mantella“. Reptiles Magazine.

Madagascan poisonous frogs: Taxonomy, biology and poison activity (Mantella crocea)“. No date. Clinical Toxinology Resources.

Mantella“. No date. San Diego Zoo: Plants and Animals.

Mantella crocea“. No date. AmphibiaWeb.org.

Mantella crocea“. No date. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Species changing IUCN Red List Status (2016-2017)“. 2017. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 2009. “Review of species from Madagascar subject to long-standing import suspensions“. UNEP/WCMC.

Featured image credit: “Mantella crocea – Bakozetra, Torotorofotsy, Andasibe, Madagascar” by MantellaMan