With hours to go before the close of April 30, I proudly report that Frogmatters has had a record month for visits. I know it’s not up there with Treehugger.com or Mongabay.com, but it’s great to see continued and growing interest in the amphibian crisis — even after 2008 which was declared the Year of the Frog. Continued thanks to Amphibian Ark for all they are doing.


I just got an email message from Jeff Corwin (OK, a lot of people got the same email) on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife. Jeff has been a great friend to Amphibian Ark. He’s taped PSAs you can find on YouTube. He talked about Amphibian Ark and held up a Panamanian Golden Frog on the Ellen Degeneres show. Here’s the email message from him:

Dear Jeff,

Yesterday, I was in Washington, DC to testify on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

My message was simple and urgent: Within my youngest daughter’s lifetime, 20-30% of the world’s known species may be on the brink of extinction if we do not act now to address the impacts of global warming on our wildlife.

Congress has heard from me. Now they need to hear from you, Jeff.

Please send your U.S. Representative a message today and urge him or her to dedicate just 5% of the anticipated revenue from new global warming cap and trade legislation to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems in a warming world.

As a wildlife biologist and host of my own show on Animal Planet, I’ve seen the devastating effects that global warming is already having on our world’s wildlife and their habitat.

I have been to the North Pole to study the iconic polar bear, whose habitat is melting away before our eyes.

I’ve traveled the world studying the decline in the planet’s already-vulnerable amphibians – a decline that threatens up to one-third of our amphibian species. And scientists fear that climate change could dramatically accelerate these devastating losses.

But you don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to find the effects of global warming on our wildlife. The pika and the wolverine in the Rockies, our nation’s waterfowl, even fish, shrimp and oysters are already in trouble.

Join me in urging Congress to protect wildlife threatened by global warming. Please send a message to your U.S. Representative today.

As a biologist, I firmly believe that we should not only reduce carbon emissions that are fueling global warming, but also expand our scientific understanding of global warming’s impacts on the living world.

Without this knowledge, we cannot develop and implement an effective strategy to safeguard our precious wildlife in a warming world. Please urge Congress to take action for our wildlife today.

These are exhilarating and challenging times that we live in. But with the help of caring people like you, I know we can secure the resources, knowledge and action that we need to give our vulnerable wildlife a better chance to survive the threat of global warming.


Jeff Corwin

What Jennifer Holland has reported in National Geographic is one of the best summaries of the amphibian crisis I have read. The photos are beautiful, the anecdotes fresh and unforgettable. You need to read it. Click HERE.

“If this was killing mammals or birds in the same way it’s killing amphibians, millions and millions would have been spent on it.” So says Andrew Cunningham from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in discussing the swath of amphibian death that the chytrid fungus has caused on Montserrat. The species quickly disappearing is the mountain chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax). Full story HERE.


Kevin Zippel, program officer for Amphibian Ark, shared with me a recent paper he helped author with other frog-erati of the herpetology world, all of them associated with the Herpetologists Education Committee of the
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR)
. I know my daughters, when in elementary school, were thrilled when the classroom would adopt a snake or a guinea pig. What great lessons occur when a teacher instructs children how to care for an animal, and when children take turns providing that care. Now a movement is under foot to involve classrooms in the rescue and care of amphibians. A noble idea, but one fraught with danger if the amphibian were to catch a disease from a reused aquarium, and then is released back into the wild, introducing a dangerous new pathogen to a woodland area or pond.

Zippel and company overview the situation, and provide practical steps that teachers should take, in the paper you can access by clicking here.

I found it interesting that the authors go out of their way to not condemn the idea of bring amphibians into the classroom. Here’s an excerpt I particularly liked:

It was of primary importance to us not to simply squelch this classroom exercise for
reasons of risk avoidance. To us, this exercise is a great example of the spirit of
encouraging a collective public conscience of “bioliteracy” outlined so eloquently by
Ehrlich and Pringle (2008:11584):

“The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to
nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity
and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not
encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to
elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and
tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to
have us. More ambitious people might think about how to
finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas.”

A terrific story in Friday’s Christian Science Monitor (story HERE) reports on the valiant efforts to stave off amphibian extinctions in Panama. The story details the work of a Panamanian with the tattoo of a toad on his calf who has teamed with a Wisconsin woman who used to be in the Peace Corps. The ravages of chytrid are detailed. A very good read. Good to see the connection to Amphibian Ark, and good to see quotes from the Ark’s Kevin Zippel.

From the people who brought you “Silence of the Bees”: PBS NATURE will croak about amphibian crisis in April: http://tinyurl.com/aejzkb
Here’s the news release about the April 5 special:

There is an environmental crisis unfolding in our own backyard and around the globe. As the celebration of Earth Day draws near, NATURE takes an in-depth look at the greatest mass extinction of amphibians since the dinosaurs. Frogs have been on this planet for more than 250 million years; now scientists are struggling to keep them alive. NATURE “Frogs: The Thin Green Line” airs Sunday, April 5, 2009, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS.
Researchers have found evidence that one of the major reasons for the loss of one-third of our amphibians today stems from a fungus called chytrid. Unfortunately, the experts don’t know where it started and don’t know how to stop it. What they do know is that it grows in high altitudes, needs water and requires a host to spread. The hosts are the many beautiful species of amphibians the disease destroys.
“Once again, we’re fortunate to be working with Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Allison Argo,” says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “Allison is able to craft a powerful story with remarkable footage capturing the intimate details of both life and death of these creatures.”
Frogs sit right in the middle of the food chain, causing a tremendous change in the ecosystem affecting fish, water quality, snakes and birds. Because of chytrid, other creatures are disappearing. In Central Panama, biologists have evacuated frogs from the forest in order to save their lives. Today, their facility shelters 58 species of frogs — some of the rarest on earth.
Where once there were the calls of frogs, there is now silence, and this silence is traveling through Central America and South America. Yet two hours south of the Panama Canal, there is a small patch of forest called Burbayar, where frogs live as they have for millions of years. Scientists in Panama are hoping this disease hasn’t yet reached this isolated forest. The Burbayar seems to be healthy, with thriving frogs and insects. The question is, for how long?
NATURE has won nearly 450 honors from the television industry, parent groups, the international wildlife film community and environmental organizations, including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club. Most recently, the series won a Peabody Award for “Silence of the Bees.”

Thanks to the CoquiFrogNews blog , I learned that Jeff Corwin’s Animal Planet special on the amphibian crisis can be viewed in its entirety HERE. Mr. Corwin is right up there with Sir David Attenborough in raising awareness of the crisis, and he is a major supporter of Amphibian Ark.

Ingenious use of Google Earth to save amphibians in England. When it’s mating time for amphibians, they often cross highways by the hundreds to make their love connection. And they get run over by cars and trucks. It is contributing to the disappearance of species. Now, in England, concerned people can put special toad postings on Google Earth to show where the crossings typically happen. The group behind it is Froglife. Maybe motorists will take note and drive extra carefully in those areas. Hey, come to think of it, there’s no reason you can’t do the same in your town. Here’s the full story. And here’s link to see how it works. And here is a previous post about the road kill problem in Indiana.

Report this morning from San Diego’s CW6 News, reporter Elsa Sevilla. See video on TV station’s Web site here.

A fungus in amphibians is killing thousands of animals around the world.

The statistics are alarming. Twenty-five of the world’s top scientists, experts and amphibian veterinarians gathered at the San Diego Zoo to discuss solutions to the problem. It’s all part of a three-day conference at the Zoo which ended Wednesday.

“Populations worldwide have declined because of this disease, Chytrid Fungus,” says Doctor Allan Pessier, a scientist at the San Diego Zoo.

Scientists say the deadly disease is not only killing amphibians, but thousands of species are becoming extinct, too. The fungus attacks the amphibian’s skin. In frogs, it can be deadly because frogs use their bodies to drink water. The disease can be transfered to other amphibians as the fungus survives in spores that live in the water. Both amphibians in captivity and those in the wild are known to be infected. The amphibians at the San Diego Zoo have been tested for the fungus and they tested negative.

“You go to a place that was healthy six months ago and is now covered with dead frogs all over the ground and the populations never recovers,” says Doctor Joseph Mendelson from the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia.

Mendelson conducts research at the Atlanta Zoo, but also travels around the world to see first hand what has happened to hundreds of species that are now extinct because of the disease.

It is not known exactly where the disease originated, but some experts believe it may have first been detected in Africa. Currently, South and Central America, and Australia are now seeing an alarming number of amphibians die due to the fungus.

“The Experts on the issue are here at the San Diego Zoo meeting with each other, exchanging ideas, developing tests, developing strategies, ways to combat this,” says Anne Redice of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to a grant from IMLS, scientists, experts and veterinarians gathered for the three-day conference this week. They are looking for solutions to eradicate the deadly disease, but they are also looking to create a standardized method of testing in order to stop the fungus from spreading from amphibians in the wild to those who have been relocated to zoos around the country and the world.

“We are losing part of our eco-system. It will have ramifications on how the eco-system functions,” says Mendelson.

Hoping to prevent a major impact on the environment, scientists say they are literally, scrambling for answers to save thousands of species from extinction.


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