Tiger-Legged Waxy Monkey Tree Frogs
Orange-Legged Monkey Leaf Frogs
Phyllomedusa hypochondrialis azurea
Tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs, like P. sauvagei, are members of the Phyllomedusine family (or subfamily depending on which taxonomic classification you use). They are lime to bright green with a white to pale yellow underbelly. The insides of their legs are tiger-striped, hence their common name. They are an average-sized species growing to a length of between 2-2.5 inches (5-6 centimeters). They are called ‘monkey’ tree frogs due to their apparent preference for very deliberate walking as opposed to the characteristic hopping or jumping displayed by most frogs. Also like P. sauvagei, tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs excrete a waxy substance (lipids) from their skin which they then rub on their body to prevent water loss. Once the frogs have covered themselves in this “wax” they reduce their evaporative water loss to a percentage comparable to that of desert-adapted lizards. Again, like P. sauvagei, tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs further reduce water loss by excreting their uric acid (basically, the nitrogen compound of urine) in a semi-solid form, allowing them to reabsorb water through the walls of their bladder. They have a lifespan in excess of 8 years, with 10-15 being likely.
Tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs are from the same area as P. sauvagei—the Chacoan region of southeast Bolivia, northwest Argentina and a large portion of Paraguay. The Chacoan region is divided into two ecosystems—a warm temperate dry forest and a warm temperate moist forest. Within this region, tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs are found almost exclusively in the warm temperate dry forest. With a few minor exceptions, this habitat is similar to that of the chaparral of the American southwest. Within this habitat tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs spend most of their daylight hours on the underside of leaves or branches. Despite the fact that these positions often expose them to hot, dry winds, the frogs’ unique waxy covering protects them from desiccation. Whereas P. sauvagei often perches on branches in the open, tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs are thigmotaxic and usually seek more secluded, enclosed locations, often inside the curl of a leaf or inside plant stems/branches. Occasionally tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs will spend the daylight hours nestled in a ground or near-ground hide spot. At night they descend or emerge in search of prey, only to return to their seclusion after feeding.
The care of tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs is almost the same as that for P. sauvagei. Contrary to popular misconception, the most important requirement for keeping tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs is a low relative humidity. Unlike many frogs, tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs are happiest in a hot, dry environment. An ideal situation would provide many branches and perches, a basking spot and a shallow water dish in an enclosure that is taller than it is wide. Temperatures should reach the mid to high nineties during the day, but cool off at night, thus mimicking their natural environment. A regular incandescent bulb above some branches where the frogs can perch will provide the proper heat. Make sure the bulb is large enough to heat the perching spot to 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit, but that it is not so hot as to heat the whole cage--thus creating a temperature gradient. The light should be shut off at night or placed on a timer to provide a 10-hour photoperiod.
Another important factor in maintaining low humidity is adequate ventilation. When choosing an enclosure, look for one with a large screen area for as much ventilation as possible. Never spray or mist tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs, as too much moisture can be detrimental and can lead to illness. Keep them as dry as possible, but provide them with a shallow water dish with clean water at all times. They will get all the moisture they need this way. This being said, perhaps the single most important factor in the successful care of tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs is keeping the substrate as dry as possible.
As mentioned above, tiger-legged monkey tree frogs prefer to spend the daylight hours in relatively more secluded locations than P. sauvagei. Whereas P. sauvagei seem perfectly happy to perch on a branch in plain view (albeit they are colored so as to be well camouflaged), tiger-legged monkey tree frogs seem to prefer thigmotaxic situations (those in which they are able to be in contact with the walls/sides of an enclosure). We have found that they have a particular affinity for curled leaves and tight spaces, oft times piling next to or on top of one another. Full-bodied plants such as pothos, philodendrons and umbrella plants (Schefflera sp.) are good choices for providing shelter. Although tiger-legged monkey tree frogs are essentially an arboreal species, we have found that some individuals seem to prefer to be on the ground, hiding under water dishes or pieces of cork bark. Providing low-lying hide spots will afford your frogs a choice for comfort.
Tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs are insectivores and eat most types of bugs. In captivity crickets, earthworms, moths and flies are good sources of food. As with most captive-kept frog species food items should be dusted with a vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure adequate nutrition. Like most frogs, waxy monkey tree frogs are nocturnal and therefore feed primarily at night. Although they will spend the majority of the day hidden within leaves or other hide spots, they will descend at night to feed upon insects at the base of their enclosure.
Tiger-legged waxy monkey tree frogs, like most frogs, are susceptible to stress. It has been our experience that once they have become acclimated to their captive environment they are quite a robust species. That being said, when first introduced into an enclosure they should be allowed to assimilate for a day or two before handling, and even at that point handling should be kept at a minimum. If you obtain wild-caught individuals this assimilation period should be extended until the frogs have begun to eat regularly. If you choose to handle your frogs your movements should be slow and the frogs should be allowed to “walk” on your hands as opposed to being gripped or restrained in any fashion. By allowing the frogs some movement they are less likely to equate you with a predator and are less likely to become unnecessarily stressed.