When a world leader assesses what’s happening to biodiversity, announces a huge commitment to preventing further loss, and then says, “Nothing less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake” — well, it’s a good day for our planet.  Story pasted below and linked here.

Biodiversity: German pledges 500 million euros at UN talks


BONN, Germany (AFP) — Germany on Wednesday pledged half a billion euros (785 million dollars) to help defend threatened forests and called on others to join its effort as a UN conference on biodiversity engaged top gear.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country wanted to set down a “very clear marker” on attaining the UN’s Millennium goal of braking biodiversity loss by 2010.

“The Federal government, between 2009 and 2012, will earmark an additional amount of 500 million euros,” Merkel told the meeting.

“We want to use this money in those areas where forests and other ecosystems are under threat and to find quick solutions for conserving them.”

From 2013, Germany will stump up half a billion dollars, annually, she promised, but added, “obviously, Germany cannot shoulder this enormous global burden alone.”

The three-day “high-level” section of the conference is gathering 87 ministers, with the goal of crafting a new global deal on preserving Earth’s wildlife.

“Noting less that the basis of our own survival, our very existence, is at stake,” Merkel told the 6,000 representatives from 191 countries attending the meeting, launched 11 days earlier.

Participants at the conference are hoping to establish a roadmap towards negotiating, by 2010, an “Access and Benefit Sharing” regulatory framework governing access to genetic resources and sharing the benefits from their use.

Amid sharp debate on the issue, Merkel called for “striking fair balance between rich and poor countries” in the economic exploitation of biodiversity.

The UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) was established at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underlined the links between species loss and climate change, and said the world must see protecting biodiversity as an economic imperative.

“Biodiversity underpins our economies … and we cannot afford to deplete our public capital in this way,” he said.

Barroso singled out deforestation as one of the main causes of species loss, and said the European Union was reviewing measures to combat illegal logging, and trade in illegally harvested forest products.

But environment groups have criticised the EU for sitting on a draft law that would ban the importation of such products into Europe.

“The law is finished and ready to go, but because of commercial and business lobbying, the Commission has not gone forward,” said Saskia Richartz, policy director for biodiversity at Greenpeace.

Scientists say that species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate — between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction.

One in four mammals, one bird in eight, one third of all amphibians and 70 percent of plants are under threat.

Development economist Pavan Sukhdev has handed the conference a preliminary report in which the lost of the benefits of biodiversity are put at 3.1 trillion dollars a year, or six percent of the planet’s gross national product (GNP).

Group of Eight environment ministers met in Kobe, Japan, earlier this week, issuing a joint statement acknowledging the fundamental importance of biodiversity and spelling out their support for the Millennium Development Goal of reaching a “significant reduction” in species loss by the end of this decade.

Greenpeace’s Martin Kaiser praised Merkel for sending “a very strong and important signal” for reaching a strong agreement in Bonn.

He called on other industrialised countries to pitch in, and estimated around 30 billion euros (47.1 billion dollars) a year were needed to finance the protection of ancient forests.

Every once in a while I search for new information about the quest to establish a research powerhouse behind biodiversity that can do for threatened species what Al Gore and the IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have done for global warming.  I came across a February report from the people who one day will launch that equivalent, which will be known as the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity, or IMoSEB. You can download the slide presentation here.

There has been a three-year process of international meetings to pave the way for IMoSEB, and now it’s time for governments to populate the group and take it to the next level. Gaining international agreement on how to protect biodiversity is clearly a daunting task.

One of the slides mentions that IMoSEB will need to have “the capacity to identify and respond rapidly to biodiversty-related emergencies.” Until that day, NGOs like those that formed Amphibian Ark are going to have to go it largely alone. There is no greater biodiversity crisis than the one facing amphibians.

Preserving the diversity of amphibian wildlife can’t wait for the governments to step in and fix the problem. By then, the problem is going to only be more formidable. We all have to act now. It starts with getting familiar with the problem and pledging to be a force for good. The first step is to visit


Here’s an excellent gallery of photos from the Bristol Zoo’s leapfrog event, by BBC Bristol. Among the many things written on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, there were dozens of comments that stood out to me. But here is just a sample. (In each excerpt or quote there is a link to the original story.)

The Chinese calendar may designate 2008 as the Year of the Rat, but in wildlife terms it is very definitely the year of the frog. Conservationists are dedicating the next 12 months to saving frogs and other amphibians, such as toads, newts and salamanders, which are now threatened as never before by a disease which seems to be exacerbated by global warming.

The coming year is playing out to be a pivotal one for many of the planet’s endangered species; whether or not they endure will – to a large extent – depend on the steps humanity takes to protect their habitats and avert the worst of global warming. Few are perhaps as vulnerable as amphibians.

A twilight Frog Concert will be held on February 29 at Melbourne Zoo.

“This was a fun way of bringing home some very serious messages about the future many amphibian species face and a great launch pad for Year of the Frog.”

The chytrid fungus is such a threat to amphibians that it is estimated that 500 species need to be taken into captivity to prevent them from dying out.

“Amphibians have been around for over 360 million years, enduring at least three mass extinction events, including the one that eliminated the dinosaurs. But amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace faster than anything we have experienced,”

Scientists say the worldwide decline of amphibians is one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns;one that may portend greater threats to the ecological balance of the planet.

Scientists now fear that the largest species mass extinction since the dinosaurs will likely happen in our time and among the most endangered are amphibians including frogs, toads, newts, salamanders, and caecilians.

Time’s fun when you’re having flies.  :-)

Thanks to hundreds of hopping children and their parents, dozens of caring zoos, a lot of reporters and bloggers, and the compassion of authorities like Sir David Attenborough and Jeff Corwin, the global campaign to save amphibians got a nice lift on the eve of the Year of the Frog.


LONDON — Sir David Attenborough applies finishing touches to the new frog sculpture at the London Zoo. Story here.

BANGLADESH — Below, kids at the Dhaka Zoo in Bangladesh have some leapfrog fun. (Here’s story from Daily Star in Bangladesh.)



LOS ANGELES – Above, The Living Desert’s leapfrog event (in California), and story from The Desert Sun. 

ST. LOUIS — Below, the St. Louis Zoo gets kids leapfrogging, photo courtesy of KSDK-TV.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (below, left), and WIRRAL, UK (right), with story.

uae-12-31.jpg chester-zoo-12-31-07.jpg

We know of other news stories on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day including some in LondonIndia; India’s national newspaper; Scotland; Australia; London again; United Arab Emirates; Bangladesh (see above); as well as a list of VIBs (B for bloggers) mentioned in the previous post.

More to come.

If you’re new to the crisis facing amphibians, here is a sequence of videos that will bring you up to speed. Then at the bottom, a list of things to do, if you want to hop in and help.

First, here’s Jeff Corwin, making us care: 

Second, here’s Amphibian Ark’s program officer, explaining the importance of amphibians, and what is being done:

And to complete the video trilogy, here’s a look at a rescue project from Latin America (in two parts):

So now what do you do?  Glad you asked, and thanks for caring:

  1. Sign the “save the frog” petition. Click here.
  2. Make a donation to the nonprofit group coordinating the Amphibian Ark rescue missions and breeding programs. Click here.
  3. Call your zoo and find out if there is a way you can help, right there in your town. 
  4. Do a Google search for “amphibian extinction” and keep learning. There are wonderful New Year’s Eve posts about all of this written by experts, and here are links to some of them: Treehugger’s post by Jeremey Elton Jacquot; Darren Nash’s post (he’s actually a  dinosaur expert from England); Rhett Butler’s post from Mongabay; Brian Gratwicke’s post; the DearKitty blog post and video; AJ Cann’s post; Bill Slawski’s blog; and Greg’s post on  his notextinctyet blog.  
  5. If you’re a student, ask your teacher to make saving the frogs a classroom project.
  6. Forward this to as many people as you can think of.

When you have a year named after a cause — in this case, 2008 has been declared The Year of the Frog by conservation groups — you’d better make the best of it. This year is the moment to capture the world’s attention and do something that truly is achievable — averting a mass extinction. Let’s not blow it.

Just in time for the year of the frog, you can sign an online petition on Amphibian Ark’s Web site. It says:

We, the undersigned, support the zoos and aquariums of the world, which are carrying out public awareness, conservation breeding, and habitat protection.  We call on our leaders and governments to commit resources for urgent global action to rescue frogs and other amphibians.

And in case you missed it, I wrote a couple of days ago that Sir David Attenborough signed the petition.

This news release was just pushed out worldwide. It captures what’s happening on Monday, and includes some assessment of what’s been accomplished so far in mobilizing the world to save frogs:

On New Year’s Eve, Zoos Hop into ‘The Year of the Frog’ with Leapfrog Events  Starting in New Zealand and Ending in California

LONDON, Dec. 28 /PRNewswire/ — A child’s game will be the focal point of a serious campaign to avert a mass extinction of amphibian species when zoos around the world hold leapfrog events on Dec. 31 to usher in “the year of the frog.” Beginning at the Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, and ending at The Living Desert in Palm Desert, California, zoo visitors will form leapfrog lines and hop over each other — to stretch their legs, and to raise awareness.From one-third to one-half of the planet’s 6,000 amphibian species are in danger of extinction. As many as 165 species may already be extinct.

Amphibian Ark, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) have declared 2008 “The Year of the Frog” to raise awareness and critical funding.Countries with zoos holding New Year’s Eve leapfrog events include, by time zone, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Russia, South Africa, Latvia, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Mexico, and Colombia. 

Amphibians are often called “the canaries in the coal mine,” and when hundreds of species are in decline it serves as a global warning to other species. Amphibian Ark, part of the Global Conservation Network, a 501(c)3 organization, develops, promotes, and guides short-term captive management of the most threatened amphibians. Amphibian Ark’s work makes possible the long-term survival of species for which adequate protection in the wild is not currently possible. 

A list of many participating zoos can be found on The Web site explains the crisis, features an online petition and links to blogs from conservation and wildlife experts, and accepts donations to help fund Amphibian Ark’s work. It will cost $50-$60 million to rescue the 500 most threatened species.  The leapfrog events are preceded by considerable momentum for the campaign to save amphibians:

– Sir David Attenborough, whose “Life in Cold Blood” television series on amphibians and reptiles will debut in the spring, last week attended the unveiling of a frog sculpture at the London Zoo to help usher in the special year.

– Jeff Corwin, co-host of CNN’s “Planet in Peril” specials and host of ”The Jeff Corwin Experience” on Animal Planet, has taped PSAs.

– Earlier this month the Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX) became the first corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark.

– The U.S.-based National Association of Biology Teachers announced a partnership with Amphibian Ark that will more deeply engage 6,000 teachers in the cause.


Click here for Google map showing where zoos around the world are holding leapfrog events on New Year’s Eve to hop in “the year of the frog“. It’s not a complete listing of all participating zoos, but it does a good job of showing how big this is going to be. Here’s a list of many of the zoos. And here is why it’s all happening, including a special video message from Jeff Corwin.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums last week released its “Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Success Stories in 2007″. The Detroit Zoo’s success with Wyoming toads made #1 on the list: 

1. Terrific toadlets
Habitat loss, pollution and disease are hitting some of the smallest creatures on earth the hardest. Frog populations have been in sharp decline the past few decades, but a fortunate native species is getting a helping hand from scientists. Staff at the Detroit Zoo are raising 40 juvenile Wyoming toads, one of the most endangered amphibians in the United States. The species is now considered functionally extinct in the wild, with the last remaining individuals only found in zoos and aquariums across the country. The Detroit Zoo has successfully released more than 6,000 tadpoles, toadlets and toads in Wyoming since the program’s inception in 1995. Recent good news indicates that the recovery efforts may be paying off: this summer in a monitored protected area, conservationists discovered the first clutch of Wyoming toad eggs found in the wild in ten years.


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