South Africa’s Monster Frog
The African Giant Bullfrog nicknamed the Pixie frog in the overseas pet trade. Pixie frog is derived from the first part of this frog’s scientific name Pyxicephalus adsperus. An African Giant Bullfrog is a 1 kg 25cm long green monster that has two tooth like projections on the lower jaw that feeds on rodents, other frogs and even snakes.
Bull Frogs are in active for most of the year and only emerge during the peak of the rainy season to breed and to eat. These frogs have burrows of 30cm deep in clay soil and up to 1 meter in sandy soil. During hibernation the Bull Frogs cover themselves in a mucous coating with dries and forms a protective cocoon. The Bull Frogs will remain in their burrows until enough rain falls to creates shallow seasonal breeding ponds. If a severe drought affects the frogs habitat they can stay cocooned in their burrows for several years.
Once the adult bullfrogs emerge from their burrows a frenzy of mating occurs over a few nights. This results in a huge number of eggs, tadpoles and eventually froglets being around at the same time. Larger Bull frog Tadpoles will eat smaller Bull Frog Tadpoles ensuring that only the strongest tadpoles survive and that the shallow breeding ponds do not get over crowded. Male Bull Frogs show parental care of the eggs and tadpoles. A documentary I watched a while back showed footage of a male Bull Frog digging a channel between two ponds to allow the tadpoles he was guarding to escape to a new pond as the one they were in was drying out. This parental care stops once the tadpoles metamorphasize into froglets. Adult bull frogs will eat younger versions of themselves. Once the breeding is over and the frogs have had a few meals they will retreat back underground until the next rainy season.
Adults and juvenile African bull Frogs will eat any living thing which fits into their mouths. For juveniles this means insects and smaller frog species. Adult bull frogs will eat large insects, rodents, nestling birds, lizards and snakes. Adult bull frogs will eat younger versions of themselves. Juvenile Bull Frogs have no problem eating their siblings A preserved African Giant Bullfrog that had been kept at the Transvaal Museum was dissected and had 17 and a half baby Rinkhals in its stomach. Why so many Rinkhals babies in in one go? The frog must have come across a newly born litter of Rinkals that had not yet gone their separate ways and eaten the most or all of the litter. Bet your wondering about the half a baby Rinklas, all I can think of is that the baby must have been cut in half by the frogs tooth projections. So add another name to the list of predators that prey on venomous snakes.
African Giant Bull Frogs are commonly kept in zoos and snake parks and in the overseas exotic pet trade. In Gauteng this species requires a TOPS permit in order to keep them. This means that there are very few legal pet African Giant Bullfrogs in captivity in South Africa Most Bull Frogs kept by South African pet owners are likely to be kept illegally without a TOPS permit. African Giant Bull Frogs do well in captivity requiring minimal space and no fancy UVB lights. Basically a plastic terrarium filled with damp peat moss and a large water bowl will do. Spray the enclosure and remove faeces and uneaten food daily. Keep at a temperature of around 25 -30 degrees Celcius. Bull Frogs fed on a diet of fatty lab rodents will develop fatty deposits on their eyes and large insects such as Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches and pre killed fish should make up the bulk of a Bull Frogs diet in captivity. These frogs can give a painful bite. When I volunteered at the Transvaal Snake Park I handled these frogs every weekend for over a year and was never bitten. Either I was lucky or the Transvaal Snake Parks Bull Frogs were very relaxed or a bit of both.
The conservation status of the African Giant Bull Frog is near threatened. As with most animals on the planet the threat comes mostly from habitat destruction. The solution is a simple one, stop building golf courses, housing estates and farms on the Bull Frog’s specialised habitat.