Description: Mantella cowani is sharply patterned in contrasting colors. They are black, with the exception of yellow, orange, or red blotches where limbs meet the body. These blotches often extend down their limbs. M. cowani is a large species of Mantella, with some big females reaching 31 mm (1.2 inches). Hybrids of M. baroni and M. cowani naturally occur within at least one population. M. cowani is one of the most endangered amphibians in Madagascar, having had their populations harmed by both habitat destruction and over-collection for the pet trade.
Red List Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
Distribution and Habitat: The few existing wild populations are in the highlands of south-central Madagascar, where they are confined to small moors near streams. The surrounding area is deforested, and consists of grassland, leftover from repeated slash and burn agriculture. In this degraded habitat, the frogs often only come out of hiding during the very early morning and retreat back under wet rocks as the day becomes hot.
Captive Care Notes: Due to their dwindling wild populations and the harm heavy collecting had on them in the recent past, all exports of M. cowani were stopped in 2003. While available, they were in high demand, but unfortunately did not always end up in the right hands, and few individuals remain in captivity today. M. cowani has proven difficult to breed, and captive-bred frogs are not available. Only time will tell if this species will succeed and remain in captive collections, or fade away as the last of the wild-caught imports die.
The captive care of M. cowani is similar to other mantellas, but because they are native to higher altitudes than others, it has been suggested they require very cool temperatures. Temperatures should remain below 23°C-25°C (73°F-77°F) most of the time, with some people reporting extended exposure to high temperatures resulting in heat stress and death. Other hobbyists report that established frogs are no more sensitive to warm temperatures than other species. At night or during a simulated dry season, the temperature in the terrarium can drop to 15°C (59°F). They are a shy frog in captivity, normally only coming out from hiding when food is available.
AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2007. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Feb 21, 2007).
Staniszewski, Marc. Mantellas. 1st ed. Frankfurt: Chimaira, 2001. 170-172.
Vences, M., F. Glaw & W. Böhme. 1999. A review of the genus Mantella (Anura, Ranidae, Mantellinae): taxonomy, distribution and conservation of Malagasy poison frogs. Alytes 17 (1-2): 3-72.