Zoo-technologists Alejandra Curubo (left) and Ivan Ramos pack frogs to ship to the United States at the “Tesoros de Colombia” frog breeding center in Cundinamarca, Colombia. (AP)

Zoo-technologists Alejandra Curubo (left) and Ivan Ramos pack frogs to ship to the United States at the “Tesoros de Colombia” frog breeding center in Cundinamarca, Colombia. (AP)

Oophaga histrionica red head frogs stand inside the glass container where they are bred at the “Tesoros de Colombia.” (AP)

Oophaga histrionica red head frogs stand inside the glass container where they are bred at the “Tesoros de Colombia.” (AP)

A tadpole swims in a container. The center helps collectors breed their own frogs, making it less profitable for people to sell frogs found in the wild. (AP)

A tadpole swims in a container. The center helps collectors breed their own frogs, making it less profitable for people to sell frogs found in the wild. (AP)

Oophaga histrionica small red head (top left), Oophaga lehmanni red (top right), Oophaga lehmanni yellow (lower left), Oophaga histrionica blue (lower right) (AP)

Oophaga histrionica small red head (top left), Oophaga lehmanni red (top right), Oophaga lehmanni yellow (lower left), Oophaga histrionica blue (lower right) (AP)

Alejandra Curubo and Ivan work late in Colombia. Since “Tesoros de Colombia” began, the price tag for some frogs has dropped by 50 percent. (AP)

Alejandra Curubo and Ivan work late in Colombia. Since “Tesoros de Colombia” began, the price tag for some frogs has dropped by 50 percent. (AP)

An Oophaga histrionica

An Oophaga histrionica "Tado" rests in a container, ready to be packed and sent to the United States. (AP)

Raising Frogs

Posted: July 1, 2019

Taking a frog like this one from the wild is against the law. But that doesn’t mean people don’t do it. Smugglers and poachers capture these frogs all the time! One conservationist is busy trying to stop that . . . by breeding frogs.

Iván Lozano works in a small farmhouse in the Colombian forest. He inspects dozens of glass containers. They hold some of the world’s most coveted frogs. His job is to save the brightly-colored, poisonous amphibians from extinction. But Mr. Lozano doesn't hunt down poachers and smugglers. He breeds exotic frogs legally. He sells them at lower prices than smugglers do. Now frog-lovers can buy frogs legally. And buying these frogs doesn’t hurt wild populations. Mr. Lozano started selling frogs to the United States six years ago. Since then, prices for some species have seen a big drop. Harlequin frogs cost half as much as they used to. A golden dart frog used to cost around $150. Now it costs $30.

“We want prices to go down so much that it's no longer profitable for traffickers to sell these frogs,” Mr. Lozano explains. He says his company also helps collectors breed their own frogs. Then frog sellers can fill the market with legally-raised animals. He hopes to put smugglers and poachers out of business.

The frogs raised by Mr. Lozano are no longer poisonous. That’s because they have a different diet than wild specimens. But collectors still want them for their brilliant color patterns. Mr. Lazano keeps adding new species to his “for sale” list. He can even sell the red lehmanni. That frog is so rare it has the nickname “the Holy Grail.” (Tales from the time of Britain’s legendary King Arthur say the Holy Grail was the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. Now people use the phrase to describe very hard-to-find objects.)

Now that Mr. Lozano has raised so many frogs, he has another mission in mind. He wants to use frogs from his lab to repopulate forests.