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Wildlife Conservation Society has been running an amphibian workshop here in Cali this week and I was asked to help with husbandry, enclosure design and hands on sections. It’s been a great several days here in Cali with 37 students from all over this amphibian rich country! The Cali Zoo is hosting us and providing a great space and staff to expose students to a lot of husbandry and veterinary techniques and ideas. There are many folks working already in ex situ and in situ programs here in Colombia and many shared their experiences with us on day one! More to come in a day or so.

 

Jennifer Pramuk, Curator at the Bronx Zoo, shares some info with students

 

 

Students in Cali during the water quality hands-on section

 

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.

Researchers in Canada have found, for the first time ever, a photosynthetic symbionts in a vertebrate. A unicellular green alga,was found living INSIDE the cells of developing Spotted salamander embryos while still in the eggs! How these algae get inside vertebrate cells has not been determined. However, previous research showed that eggs that did not contain algae in the surrounding jelly mass were slower to develop than those which had algae present.
There are ways in which vertebrate cells eliminate foreign material and this discovery could help scientists explore what regulates this process.

Read more at: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100730/full/news.2010.384.html

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 Bermingham 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.

A recent announcement of plans to publish a call for comments on how to regulate and reduce disease spread through the amphibian trade has been met with a lot of speculation and worry. We have put together a Fact Sheet on the subject that explains how this came to be, what is currently going on and how interested folks can have their voices heard. It can be found at: http://www.amphibianark.org/pdf/US_amphibian_trade_proposal.pdf

Taking 5 minutes to read this attachment carefully and I would bet a clearer, calmer picture lies ahead!

In a world-first for zoos, a nest of abandoned mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) tadpoles has been moved from Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to Chester Zoo, and the tadpoles are now being cared for by an adoptive mum. Female mountainchickens normall care for their young, and it is unusual for a female to abandon her offspring. The feamle is now feeding her new brood as if they were her own.

Mount chickens are native to Montserrat and Dominica, but their numbers in the wild have breen drastically decreased due to hunting for food and by chytrid fungus. A number of institutions, including Durrell and Chester, are working collaboratively on a breeding program for the species, as well as undertaking research into the species in the wild.

I have written two posts on atrazine, the common herbicide. One post  mentioned a report that atrazine affects organ development in frogs. The other refers to a study showing that frogs’ immune systems are suppressed when exposed to atrazine.  Now there is a report by the Huffington Post that atrazine levels in human drinking water exceed federal safety limits in four states.

Records that tracked the amount of the weed-killer atrazine in about 150 watersheds from 2003 through 2008 were obtained by the Huffington Post Investigative Fund under the Freedom of Information Act. An analysis found that yearly average levels of atrazine in drinking water violated the federal standard at least ten times in communities in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, all states where farmers rely heavily on the herbicide.

Frogs are the canaries in the coal mine, remember? It’s best not to ignore the canaries. The frogs warned us, and those warnings are not being heeded.

I remember reading how the ecosytem of North America’s midwestern prairie changed when buffalo were killed off in the 1800s. Buffalo dung, in particular, was a key part of the ecosytem and affected wildlife and vegetation. Which brings us to the discovery that Asian elephants in Sri Lanka have been propping up the amphibian population in that arid land — by creating dung piles in which several species of amphibians can live. Full story HERE.

I w rote this for my firm’s sustainability blog. Thought you frog lovers might appreciate, too.

That was then: You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. – Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee

This is now: Trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table. – Comments at a town hall meeting, by Rep. Barney Frank

I wonder how Atticus, the selfless public defender in To Kill A Mockingbird, would fare in today’s polarized discourse and in this age of the sound bite. (Then again, he didn’t need much income; Scout, after all, was fine being shoeless.)

But just when you want to give up on the whole idea of finding a common ground, along comes sustainability. We don’t agree on sweeping topics, like global warming. But we will agree to recycle bottles and lower our thermostats. We won’t get on the same page about public welfare, but we will drop our dollars into the Salvation Army kettle. National healthcare, no. Taking walks, yes.

Sustainability is where the actions can have universal appeal, but the participants associate them with different goals. When a supermarket installs an aluminum can bin, very few of us will consciously walk past it to throw a soda can into the trash. We’ll use the bin. But why did the company put the bin there in the first place? To be socially responsible, or to keep the parking lot from looking trashy? Or to get some income from the recycling company? And why do we use the bin? To save the planet? Or to avoid waste and conserve resources? Your personal slant on the world will determine the answer.

And yet your viewpoint really doesn’t matter, because sustainability has you doing the same things as other people with whom you would never agree.

And from this viewpoint, promoting sustainability might just be the most unifying activity an organization can ever take.

The connection between frog deformities and pesticides and herbicides has been reported a lot. But here is a new study by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale that shows how little it really takes to harm amphibians. Imagine there was a pool of water in a farm pond that had the presence of only a trace (0.0000000003*) of pesticide ingredient edosulfan. That would be enough to kill half of the pond’s frog population. Take the 3 and make it 8, and every frog dies. Here’s the news release explaining the study:http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/555153/?sc=rssn (*Double check my decimal conversion. What I’m attempting to show is 0.3 parts per billion.)

An excerpt from the release:

The foothill yellow-legged frog is especially susceptible to the chemicals such as endosulfans, which kill by essentially overloading the nervous system and rendering breathing muscles useless. Europe and Australia each have banned the use of the chemical as a pesticide, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is studying the issue, Sparling said.

Sparling is optimistic humans can find ways to both farm on a large enough scale to feed the population and protect non-pest animals.

“To produce crops to provide for the world we have to use pesticides, and I’m not anti-pesticide,” he said. “But it’s important for us as scientists, agriculturalists and environmental protectors to make sure we continue developing pesticides that are as protective as possible of non-target animals as can be, both in the chemicals we use and application methods.”


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