panama


Some interesting news from researchers working in Panama.

Dr. Karen Lips and her team documented the association of disease and the massive decline of amphibians within a protected national park in El Cope, Panama in 2006 (Lips, K. R., Brem, F., Brenes, R., Reeve, J. D., Alford, R. A., Voyles, J., Carey, C., Livo, L., Pessier, A. P. & Collins, J. P. 2006. Emerging infectious disease and the loss of biodiversity in a Neotropical amphibian community. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 103:3165-3170.). Further findings just published by Andrew Crawford, Karen Lips and Eldredge Berminhama in PNAS have shown through DNA barcoding techniques that although 30 species are known to have disappeared from this study site, nearly a dozen more may have disappeared before they were even described to science!

I ran across this recent press on the subject following the publication of their paper and thought I’d share it. http://www.physorg.com/news198764525.html

More information on this publication can be found here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/07/09/0914115107

Knowing that habitat loss is the number one threat to amphibians and thinking about how many species we KNOW are lost to habitat loss, it makes me think about how these new data may indicate that even more species lost via destruction of their homes is even higher than we know! Not only are species going missing faster than we discover new ones, the rate is much higher than I would have thought.

The beautiful Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki) is considered Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only three animals of this species have been seen in the wild since late 2007 and it is now quite possibly Extinct in the Wild.

Fortunately for the species though, approximately 1,500 animals still exist aboard the AArk, thanks to the work of Project Golden Frog (www.ProjectGoldenFrog.org) and the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) (www.houstonzoo.org/amphibians/) in central Panama.

The Amphibian Ark is currently trying to help create a dedicated facility in Panama, at the EVACC, to house an expanding population of golden frogs that will hopefully someday be used for reintroduction back into the wild. Work on building this his facility is almost complete, but requires an additional $15,000 to complete.

Please give the gift of gold – make a donation (maybe in someone else’s honor) and help us to save one of the most spectacular amphibian species, the Panamanian Golden Frog, from extinction. Please click here to make your donation.

A male Gastrotheca cornuta (Marsupial Frog) at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

On the way home from an Amphibian Ark Conservation Needs Assessment workshop in Guatemala, I stopped by Atlanta for a few days, primarily to work with Atlanta-based internet marketing agency, Moxie Interactive (Moxie is helping to redevelop AArk’s web site, but more about that in a future post), but I also took advantage of being in Atlanta to visit the botanical garden.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) has been involved in a number of breeding programs for endangered Central American frog species since the late 1990s. They have been successful breeding speices such as Gastrotheca, Anotheca etc. and currently maintain over a hundred animals in various enclosures, both on display in the Fuqua Conservatory, and in off-display breding facilities.

The ABG also makes use of a specially designed “pod” for much of it’s breeding efforts. The pod has been created from an un-used shipping container, and was modelled closely on the original amphibian pod designed by Gerry Marantelli from the Amphibian Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. You can read more about amphibian containers on the AArk web site.

The inside of the frog pod at the Atlanta Botanic Gardens

I’d like to thank ABG Amphibian Specialist, Robert, for taking the time to show me around the amphiban facilities, and I would strongly encourage people to pay a visit to the ABG to learn more about their very successful amphibian conservation program.

Last week, I was thrilled to be working with Dr. Roberto Ibanez from the Smithsonian Institute and Heidi Ross and Edgardo Griffith, from the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, to administer a three-day husbandry essentials workshop in El Valle de Anton, Panama.

Consulting instructors Allan Pessier (San Diego Zoo), Brad Wilson (Veterinarian, Atlanta), Robert Hill (Atlanta Botanical Garden) and Joe Mendelson (Zoo Atlanta) also attended and participated in lectures and hand’s on demonstrations aimed at training staff and students in the essential husbandry techniques for maintaining assurance populations of endangered amphibians at facilities in Panama.

The collaborative efforts of the Panamanian Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project (www.amphibianrescue.org) being launched at the Summit Zoo outside of Panama city aims to rescue dozens of species utilizing biosecure shipping containers and down the line to provide animals for important chytrid research in situ. Working at this facility, some of the students participating in this workshop will become the next stewards of panamanian amphibians.

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