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Golden Poison Frog

© Jo Dale

© Fundación ProAves

Class: Amphibia


Family: Dendrobatidae

Scientific Name:Phyllobates terribilis

IUCN Red List status: Endangered

Protected by the following WLT projects:



Species Range (IUCN)


Discovered in 1973 and first scientifically described in 19783,2 this is one of the largest of the poison dart frogs2,3,4 and it can grow to 5 centimeters4.

The bright colour of this frog can vary, especially geographically2, but is either golden-orange2, or golden-yellow2,3, or pale green2.

The poison (rather than venom) of the frog is so strong that it was used by Chocó Indians to poison their hunting darts, and may have once been used in warfare3.

The Indians would rub the tip of a dart (not an arrow) along the back of a live frog2. Once dry, the poison would remain active on the dart for up to a year3. Two or three darts were poisoned from the back of a single frog; the frog was alive during the process and afterwards is released back into the wild2. The Indians used the darts to hunt mammals and birds.

This frog is territorial2 and lives on the ground2. The female lays eggs on the ground and the male transports the larvae to permanent pools1.

The brighter the skin colour, the more toxic the animal. Probably due to its lethal deterrent, the Golden Poison Frog appears bold when danger threatens; it does not hide, but simply hops away2, 3. The species feeds on small invertebrates such as flies, beetles, crickets, ants and termites2, 3.


This frog is famous for being one of the most poisonous animals in the world4 and a single frog carries 1,900 micrograms of poison2, 3.

Very small quantities of the poison can be fatal2 if they enter the bloodstream3. A single frog may contain enough poison to kill more than 20,000 mice2, or more than 10 people – if injected2, 3 (1,900  200). Toxin equivalent to two grains of salt is enough to kill one person5

The poison permanently prevents nerves from transmitting impulses, which leads to heart failure5. Death occurs in less than 10 minutes and there is no cure5.

The poison is the only defence the frog has against predators, it has no delivery system (such as sharp teeth or spines) and can only secrete the poison through its skin2, 3, 5.

Golden Poison Frog. © Bethan John.
Golden Poison Frog. © Bethan John.


The Golden Poison Frog is native to Colombia. It lives on the forest floor in tropical rainforest3, in a small and dwindling area of the Cauca Department1 on the Pacific Coast3. The rough, hilly country2 where it makes its home is in westernmost Colombia.

Here, in one of the wettest tropical rainforests in the world, is the Rana Terribilis Amphibian Reserve, which World Land Trust helped create.

Threats and Conservation

Despite being one of the most poisonous vertebrates in the world, this deadly creature remains extremely vulnerable to loss of habitat, which can come about from logging, gold mining, deforestation for agricultural development, followed by planting of crops (illegal) and pollution from crop spraying1,2,4.

The habitat of this species was completely unprotected until 2012, when World Land Trust raised money to save its habitat with the help of corporate supporter Puro. The reserve was created in partnership with Colombian NGO Fundación ProAves.

Today, World Land Trust’s support for a wildlife ranger in the reserve continues to play a vital role in ensuring the survival of this tiny-deadly amphibian.

Thanks to the Trust’s Keepers of the Wild programme the land is patrolled and monitored, and illegal logging and hunting prevented.



2 A dangerously toxic new frog (Phyllobates) used by Emberá Indians of western Colombia, with discussion of blowgun fabrication and dart poisoning. Bulletin of the AMNH ; v. 161, article 2

Myers, Charles W.; Daly, John W.; Malkin, Borys.



3 Frogs and toads of the world 1987 Christopher Mattison


5. Batrachotoxin. Stephen Wallace 26 March 2014. Accessed 2/2/15 

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