Can you hear me?

From Borneo to Vienna: a tale of the foot-flagging frog

By Frogs & Friends

Frogs & Friends

Foot-flagging frog by Doris PreiningerOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

Hello? Anybody out there?

Foot-flagging frogs are unusual creatures - they live in a dynamic habitat, in fast streams under waterfalls of the island of Borneo in southeast Asia. Thundering water makes this environment extremely noisy. Calling, the common communication technique of frogs, is not much of a help there. So, these ingenious, tiny frogs developed an additional method of signalization – they use visual cues and wave to each other!

Foot-flagging frog, Staurois guttatus by Björn EnckeOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

To learn more about them and establish a breeding population, in 2007 the Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna received twenty foot-flagging frogs of species Staurois guttatus and Staurois parvus. It took a while for a successful breeding to start - the enclosures of foot-flaggng frogs needed to become a tiny replicas of their original habitats, including waterfalls, streams and small pools. Joint efforts of scientists from the zoo and the University of Vienna were fruitful – eventually, both species started reproducing.

Frogs & Friends' exhibition shows us the efforts of researchers to better understand the nature of foot-flagging frogs, and frog communication in general, in a dynamic, interactive way, using multimedia, physical models and mesmerizing storytelling. Walk around the exhibition in this interactive 360° display!

How do frogs communicate: Info-tables at Schönbrunn Zoo by Daniel ZupancOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

The info-tables tell the story of foot-flagging frogs, displayed as stylized frog spawn in a polygonal form.

A detail from the info-tables at Schönbrunn Zoo by Martin Winter and Susann KnakowskeOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

What do you mean?

Foot-flagging frogs wave to each other. But how do other frogs' species communicate? By calling, blinking, smelling, touching, or being colorful - so may options!

Frogs & Friends terminal at Schönbrunn Zoo by Björn EnckeOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

Video documentaries about international amphibian conservation projects are presented at the Frogs & Friends video-terminal. These were realized as a collaboration of Frogs & Friends and multiple zoos, working together to gain valuable knowledge, crucial for the protection of vulnerable amphibian species.

Waving foot-flagging frogs of Borneo by Frogs & FriendsOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

How exactly do foot-flagging frogs communicate in the thundering waterfall noise? Scientists from Schönbrunn Zoo and University of Vienna are on a mission - reveal the secrets of communicating techniques in this species. The video is a part of the series about the foot-flagging frogs in Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, featured at Frogs & Friends.

Counting in a grid by Martin Winter and Susann KnakowskeOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

How many of them are out there?

Amphibian populations are declining worldwide. To be able to monitor a population, we need to know how many animals are out there. So, we count! How do we do it? One technique is the visual method - scientists go to the fields, look for the animals and count them. Luckily, frogs are usually loud, which gives us another option.

Audio-video installation "Putting the ear to the pond" by Daniel ZupancOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

We can count them by listening to their calls - “Putting the ear to the pond” gives the visitors a chance to experience the natural environment of five European frog species, and the sounds of their calls. How many individuals are calling?

Opening of the Frogs & Friends' exhibition in Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna by Frogs & FriendsOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

The exhibition about foot-flogging frog, set up in the Rainforest House of the Schönbrunn Zoo, was opened in May 2016.

Foot-flagging frog, Staurois guttatus by Shutter StockOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

Safe. For now.

Luckily, foot-flagging frogs are still not endangered, since their forest in the Sultanate of Brunei on the island of Borneo is protected and still quite intact. However, experience with other species has taught us this can be changed in a blink of an eye. Zoos can play an important role in the early steps of conservation programs.

Amphibian Ark: Captive breeding conservation program of the Schönbrunn Zoo by Frogs & FriendsOriginal Source: Frogs & Friends

Captive breeding programs at zoos, as well as the research and observations of animals in captivity, can be of major importance in the conservation of species. In order to protect, we need to understand them better. This is a story about the amphibian ark at the Schönbrunn Zoo and the efforts of scientist to gather information about the foot-flagging frogs. If they become threatened for whatsoever reason, we will be well-prepared.

More can be found at Frogs & Friends: Foot-flagging frogs in Vienna.

Credits: Story

Exhibition by Frogs & Friends

Exhibition curators: Sanja Drakulić & Björn Encke

Text: Sanja Drakulić, Björn Encke, Susann Knakowske, Heiko Werning

Content Director: Susann Knakowske

Content based on: Foot-flagging frogs in Vienna Exhibition and Video-Report by Frogs & Friends

Exhibition Schönbrunn Zoo
Concept & Management: Björn Encke
Technical Management, Sound Design: Bernd Schultheis
Exhibition Design: Camilo Kuschel, Adriaan Klein
Editing, Video, Education: Susann Knakowske
Consulting: Doris Preininger, Thomas Wampula, Anton Weissenbacher
Video Production: Filmtank GmbH
Illustration and Animation: Jonas Lieberknecht
Programming: Bernd Schultheis, Timo Langpeter, Floris van der Hulst
CI & Interactive Design: Sebastian Baurmann
Print Design: Martin Winter

Written & Directed by: Susann Knakowske
Camera: Leendert de Jong, Günther Rath, Doris Preininger
Editor: Ed van Megen

With the support of the Interactive Media Foundation gGmbh (IMF)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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