Since “leucomelas” means “white and black” in Greek, it is likely this scientific name was assigned on the basis of colorless museum specimens, preserved in alcohol. In life, these frogs are bright orange-yellow, with black bands or stripes. Like other dart frogs, wild ones, which are poisonous, but captive animals kept on a diet of fruit flies and crickets largely lose their toxicity. This species comes from Venezuela and adjoining areas of Northern South America.
When these amazing frogs first appeared in zoos in the 1970s, they created a sensation and remained very rare in collections until the mid-1980s. They are now widespread in captivity, thanks to their popularity. As with other poison dart frogs, captive-bred animals raised on fruit flies and crickets lose their toxic qualities. Found only on a few “islands” of forest, arising out of the Sipaliwini savannah of Suriname and Brazil, they are considered vulnerable to extinction, so that their status as a self-sustaining captive population is especially satisfying.
From Panama and Colombia, this is one of the most familiar of the poison dart frogs in collections, and is considered comparatively easy to keep and breed. It was introduced to the island of Oahu more than 50 years ago, and can be seen in front yards in suburbs of Honolulu. It continues to do well in its native habitat as well.