Fiesta del Coqui at the Central Florida Zoo & Gardens

Ed Forteau's picture

We've got a fun event to share with you today - the 4th Annual Fiesta del Coqui at the Central Florida Zoo and Gardens! There will be music, great food, arts and crafts, and a focus on the Coqui Frog. We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Shonna K. Green, Director, Marketing and PR at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, about the Fiest del Coqui - here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about the Fiesta del Coquí..

SG: Fiesta del Coquí  - September 26 and 27 marks the fourth annual Fiesta del Coquí at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens sponsored by Rumba 100.3 and La Preciosa 740 AM. The festival caters to thousands of people in the Central Florida area celebrating their Hispanic heritage. Performances including Hispanic American Youth Group of Deltona (HAYGOD), and other musical performances that will entertain guests on one of two stages scheduled for the event.   Guests will also enjoy authentic food, various vendors, arts and crafts, animal encounters, and elephant demonstrations. 

The coquí frog is still the main attraction of the event and this year you’ll be able to see 3 species of the famous frog on exhibit as well as baby coquí.  And, although the event began when the Zoo opened the first coquí exhibit in the US, the yearly event has turned into a really great party during Hispanic Heritage Month. 



Fiesta del Coqui



WE: What was the genesis of this festival?

SG: Several years ago, the Zoo was reviewing population and income statistics for the Central Florida area and learned that the fastest growing demographic in our area was from Puerto Rico.  The Zoo already had a good base of Hispanic clientele, but we had hosted Celebration Latino for several years with less than stellar results.  After speaking with several of our staff and board members from the Hispanic community, it was easy to see that the connection for the Zoo was the coquí frog (eleutherodactylus coquí) as it held a very special place in the culture and history of the Puerto Rican people.  The first challenge to bring coquí to Central Florida was the regulations imposed by US Fish and Wildlife regarding bringing an invasive species into Florida, but compounded by the folklore that coquí were not able to live off the island.  It was also widely believed that the coquí do not breed when off the island or sing once removed. 


Fiesta del Coqui



WE: What events will be going on during the Fiesta?

SG: There will be Live music, Dancing, Hispanic cultural entertainment, Puerto Rican cuisine, and Cultural crafts for children.


Fiesta del Coqui



WE: What is unique about the coquí frog?

SG: On the island of Puerto Rico, there is a unique species of frog known as the coquí.  There are 16 species of coquí that live on the island.  The coquí are very small ranging in size between 15 mm to 80 mm and the color varies considerably – green, brown and yellowish, sometimes having touches of different colors and stripes. The coquí is a very popular creature throughout the island because it complements the evenings with its graceful melody, but it wasn’t always that way.  As it was told to me, the coquí legend goes like this . . .

Once upon a time on the island of Puerto Rico, the native parrot which was also the head of the jungle called all the animals together for a meeting.  The animals on the island had gotten lazy and he wanted to change that.  He called for a race among the animals and the winner would receive a special gift. All the animals kept hanging out and enjoying the tropical weather except the tiny tree frogs.  Since they were the smallest animals, they went into training and worked hard. All the tiny frogs cheered on their team with silent cheers, for at this time they could not make a sound.  Even though it was the smallest animal, the team of tree frogs won the race!  For winning, the head of the jungle, the parrot, blessed the tiny frogs with the ability to sing. And they’ve been singing on the island ever since.

The islanders love to listen to the coquí and its melody is dearly missed by the Puerto Ricans that have moved away. The name “coquí” comes from the song that the male is heard singing, what it seems to say is: “ko-kee… ko-kee…” The coquís begin to sing at sunset and sing until dawn when they stop singing and head for their nest. Their vocalizations are legendary and immortalized in songs and folklore and they are considered a symbol of good luck. 



WE: How can visitors help out (environmentally)?

SG: To help the endangered coquí, you can visit Proyecto Coquí online (in Spanish) to learn more about the conservation and research efforts on the island of Puerto Rico.  But the amphibian crisis is being felt worldwide.  Frogs and toads are disappearing along with salamanders, newts, and caecilians.  Older than the dinosaurs, recent studies show that almost one-third of all known amphibian species (and there are over 6,000 of them) are faced with the possibility of extinction, while 120 species are thought to have gone extinct in recent decades.  No other class of organisms – birds, mammals, or plants - has faced such a high risk of widespread extinction. 

To learn more about the amphibian crisis visit the following Web sites:


Fiesta del Coqui



WE:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

SG: If you would like to see this endangered little frog, enjoy the music, food, and culture of Puerto Rico, you could venture to the island or you can visit the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens each September to get a glimpse of life on the wonderful, mystical island of Puerto Rico.  



WE: Thanks so much, Shonna! This looks like a great event.

For more information, please see: