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.