Whole exhibit enrichment for the African bullfrog
The Research Center on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to many small animals, including insects, snakes, lizards, tortoises, mice, naked mole-rats and a bullfrog. In addition to providing everything these animals need to be healthy (proper lighting, heating, and cooling), we design their exhibits with their natural history in mind. By considering how a species interacts with its environment in the wild, we can create enriched environments that give our animals opportunities to express their natural behaviors. One great example of this is our African bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus) exhibit.
African bullfrogs are native to central and southern Africa and are highly adaptable to changes in their environment. In some regions of Africa, there are distinct wet and dry seasons. During the rainy season, African bullfrogs live and breed in seasonal pools that develop. When these pools eventually dry up, the frogs will burrow into the mud and go into estivation (a type of hibernation caused by heat and drought) until the rains return. We can provide an enriched environment that simulates these seasonal changes.
During our hot summer months of May to October, the exhibit is set up with a large pool of water complete with filtration and a cascading waterfall. The African Bullfrog has a land area, so he can choose to either soak in his pool or haul out onto dry substrate to regulate his hydration levels and body temperature. During this time, we have even heard him croak his mating call during our afternoon rain storms.
Once cooler weather returns around November, the African Bullfrog exhibit is completely renovated. What was once a large pool becomes dry substrate (Eco Earth coconut husk). During this simulated dry season, he will still have access to a small area of water in order to soak and self-regulate. We do not want to completely dry out the habitat, because we don’t want the frog to go into estivation. The addition of dry substrate provides opportunities for different behaviors that would not be possible in a water pool, such as digging a burrow.
By creating wet and dry seasons within the African Bullfrog exhibit, we provide the animal with opportunities to express a variety of seasonal behaviors. Whether the animals are big or small, researching the natural history of the species inspires more engaging and enriched habitats.