Dendrobates tinctorius “NAIB True Sipaliwini” dart frog

Dendrobates tinctorius “True Sipaliwini” is an uncommon, medium size tinctorius morph from Suriname. This particular trio are F1 offspring from an original National Aquarium (NAIB) pair import in the 1990’s. The parents were obtained by Sean Stewart of Herpetologic who produced these frogs. In all, there were reported to be 4 pair of “true sips” imported by NAIB. What makes these animals special is NAIB recorded specific collection site data, making these the only known tinctorius morph with locale data available.

All animals pictured on this page are FI NAIB True Sipaliwini or their offspring (F2). It should be noted that there are a significant number of false True Sips available in the hobby and they likely exceed the number of NAIB True Sips that are typically available. Though they may resemble True Sips, they are falsely labeled True Sips if the seller cannot provide lineage data back to the 1990’s NAIB import.

Sept 2016 note: Despite my effort, it appears that the look-a-like 2012/2013 blue sips have effectively displaced the NAIB line as a True Sipaliwini. The hobby has shifted the label to a more widely available morph that has no locale data. Unfortunately this locale illustrates how difficult it is to maintain a tinctorius lineage in the hobby; most folks seem to be more concerned with what the animal looks like than establishing their lineages that trace back to collection points. It’s unfortunate that we have effectively lost this locale, and the history behind the original “True Sipaliwini” Dendrobates tinctorius.


Back to the main dart frog pagerobertus_foot_P1040117







True Sipaliwini – what’s in a name?

It’s sad to see, but the poison frog hobby’s ability to maintain distinct lines is eroding. In 2012 there was an import of D. tinctorius from Suriname that were labeled as “blue sips” and offered by the importer on Kingsnake. These animals resembled True sips, and they were acquired and relabeled as True Sips. Since multiple pair were acquired, they have become more prevalent in the hobby compared to a true True Sipaliwini which has a very limited founders population.

Additionally there is a large scale breeder that is intentionally crossing / hybridizing tinctorius locales and sorting animals by phenotype since hybrids no longer breed true to a specific locale’s color pattern. They too are referring to some sorted animals as True Sipaliwini, applying the name of this wonderful morph to a few cherry picked hybrids that have nothing in common with an actual NAIB True Sip.

So why all the fuss?

True True Sipaliwini frogs were imported with locale data – one of the few tinctorius in the hobby collected with specific site data by an institution (Azureus is another that comes to mind). This in itself increases their importance and the need to maintain this line and not outcross with animals of suspect origins. So know your breeder, and ensure they can trace their lineages back to NAIB animals. In general, if they cannot track the lineage of a recently produced animal back through Sean Stewart to NAIB, it’s not a True Sipaliwini.


Here is some background information from the 2012 imports on a dart frog forum:

“True” Sips were called that because they truly knew the exact locale of the first specimens, collected by the zoos and brought back. I believe some of the zoos stock is still around and may be the “old line” true sips. Many of new true sips are likely not true sips, this is currently being debated between hobbyists, exporters, and importers. The exact locale of these specimens are not known and at least some of these specimens may represent aberrant cobalt individuals.

A subsequent post provides additional information:

As for the true sips, I think Jeremy’s may be a new import line, locale unknown. I may be wrong on this, but my memory tells me that. I believe that Stewart works with the old line (with locale info), but it’s best to ask him directly. I can tell you I have seen PERFECT examples of “true” sips imported as cobalts, with cobalts, just a few mixed in. I mistakenly thought these were true sips, but after talking with a different and very trustworthy exporter, I found out they are just REALLY nice cobalt specimens (he has witnessed in the wild). About 1 in 30-40 have the true sip look. I now call these “faux” sips. I believe “faux” sips have been sold as true sips through other dealers in the past few years, but I can’t be 100% certain of it.

Here is an aggregation of multiple posts discussing the import of these true blue sips. The sampling of posts ends with the last post about locale data, where specific site data could not be obtained:

—— 05-24-2012, 10:44 PM

Got lucky on Monday and saw an ad on Kingsnake for some “Blue Sips”. I suspected they were true sips. After quickly calling a couple people with true sips we determined they were very likely true sips and worth getting. According to the importer, 10 specimens (5 sexed pairs) came in. Luckily we know all who purchased them and all of us are eager to set up breeding program to pair up unrelated F1 individuals. These are truly spectacular frogs.

—— 05-25-2012, 11:38 AM

That is the hope. The original ones are all from a single pair. I am waiting to see if we can get a locality for these and then I could contact NAIB or Sean to see if what the locality is of the old line. If they are the same forest island, then I don’t see a problem mixing them.

—— 05-25-2012, 12:10 PM

some of the imports look identical to the old line even hard to tell apart if they were to be side by side.

—— 05-27-2012, 04:55 PM

I have to ask for my own curiousity,the newest imports do they have solid collection info or are they being identified by their appearance.I ask not to raise doubt but to understand the process being used, Bill

—— 05-28-2012, 12:10 PM

They were posted as blue sipiliwini collected in the sipiliwini savanah

—— 05-28-2012, 03:35 PM

Apparently these were actually collected by the exporter and not locals or Amerindians in the region. So theoretically we should be able to get more collection data. I asked the importer if he could ask, but didn’t sound like it would be possible or that he would even try. If anyone out there knows who exports out of Surinam please pm me a name/number and I’ll track them down and ask myself.

—— 06-12-2012, 02:12 PM

Interesting how much this generation looks like a Cobalt.

I think it helps to show that the True Sipaliwini werent all that “Classic” pattern that everyone in the hobby seems to think they should look like.

I personally got to see Seans breeders and another hobbiests True Sips during a visit to Seans 2 winters ago. The majority looked like New Rivers with a yellow crest, Which is the classic pattern that I believe most hobbiest are accustomed to seeing True Sipaliwini.

Without specific site data on this 2012 import, these Blue Sips are not True Sipaliwini.


What does a D. tinctorius “True Siplaliwini” look like?

Black base color with blue webbing

Adult NAIB True Siplaiwini show a black base coloration with dark blue legs. They have variable blue webbing that extends up the back to the eyes. No yellow should be present on the back of a True Sip – only the yellow U shaped crest. Here is a good example of an adult female under typical lighting conditions (no flash assist):


Here is another angle of the same frog, illustrating the blue webbing on the back with no yellow extending past the eye:


Here is an image of a NAIB True Sip froglet – note how froglets show additional yellow coloration:


In general, this yellow coloration in froglets is expressed early, and changes to blue after a few months. The yellow may extend down the sides of some froglets. However, this early yellow coloration has slowly changed to blue in every NAIB True Sip I have seen. Here is another image of the froglet pictured above, just a few months later. The crest develops fairly quickly, again with no additional yellow on the back or on the stomach as is often seen in the 2012 Blue Sip imports.


Cream colored crest

This is a repeated image, but it is a good example of the yellow U shaped crest present on NAIB True Sips. It’s a lighter cream yellow rather than the deeper more vibrant yellows often seen in Cobalts, Robertus, Brazilian Yellow Heads, Regina, and other large D. tinctorius morphs:



Sorting by phenotype – why locale matters

Here are examples of wild caught Robertus imported by Snakes at Sunset in 2014. These animals are “low yellow” with the import ranging from nearly completely blue to high yellow. As you can see, these animals resemble a True Sipaliwini, but they are most definitely not:

robertus01 robertus02 robertus03

Here is another example of a Robertus my “high yellow” pair produced in 2015 (left) and an image of the parents (right):

robertus2015froglet robertus_P1050541

You would have a really hard time picking this animal out of a tank filled with NAIB True Sip froglets. Here is another image of a Robertus from the 2014 import posted to a forum:


So we have a clear example of a polymorphic population in Robertus that throws animals that closely resemble the traditional True Sip phenotype coming in 2 years after the 2012 “blue sip / true sip” import of 6 pair of animals. Here are images of those animals:



You can see how much yellow is present on the back and sides of these animals. They far more closely resemble Robertus than True Sips. That said, we cannot label them as Robertus either, as they came in under a name of “blue sip” without any locale data or collection information at all. Dendrobates tinctorius is a highly variable species. We cannot sort animals by phenotype with many populations simply because of the extreme variability we see in some of these locales. When we do have populations with solid locale data, we as a hobby should be very careful in decisions on out crossing.



Dendrobates tinctorius “True Sipaliwini” in the vivarium

They are a very bold morph, out hunting all day. They are very aggressive eaters as seen here:


Despite being a fairly typical, robust tinctorious morph, they are quite agile climbers, spending most of their day in the upper area of their vivarium (18x18x24). Here is the male on the upper ledge, followed by the female, then both males with the dominant male out front peering over the edge:



D. tinctorius “True Sipaliwini” vivarium

My True Sipaliwini vivarium has changed a lot over time, mostly being shaped by the tincs themselves. The Begonia bipinnatifida and Peperomia caperata were beaten down by the true sips, but the Selaginella uncinata has done very well, cascading down from the upper ledge while climbing most of the background and floor:



Emerging from their hide

Here’s an amusing video of 2 of the 3 true sips emerging from their roost. They have quite a few hiding places to choose from, but they seem to like the front the viv, under a group of river pebbles. They managed to push their way through different crevasses three times in three locations, so I have given up trying to plug the holes. Their morning ritual is to emerge when I give their viv a good hand misting, and then they wait for their flies. The second sip out is funny – I’m not sure if it was disoriented emerging into the light, but watch for the header into the plant…



Selected images of Dendrobates tinctorius “True Sipaliwini”



Back to the main dart frog pagerobertus_foot_P1040117