Recently on CBS, Jeff Corwin provided yet another thought provoking explanation of the amphibian crisis. He and Clorox teamed up with Animal Planet for a special that premiered last Thursday night.

Scientists today know that when rescuing amphibians from a chytrid-tainted environment, it’s important not to accidentally let the fungus hitch a ride on the soles of their boots. Clorox signed up as the first corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark’s rescue mission because its bleach is used to remove the fungus from gloves and boots and equipment. Dwindling amphibian populations are being placed into the protective custody of zoos and other conservation organizations for captive breeding — with the goal of eventually reintroducing them into the wild.

People didn’t know about chytrid back in the early 1990s — at least they didn’t know what it does to most amphibian species. And now, we’re learning of a case in which a captive breeding program for Mallorcan midwife toads resulted in chytrid-carrying toads being released into the wild. Here’s an excerpt from the story in Science Daily:

The new study suggests that an endangered species of frog from South Africa, Xenopus gilli, which was housed in the same room as the Mallorcan midwife toads, was responsible for spreading the infection to them.

The captive breeding and reintroduction programme for the Mallorcan midwife toad has been highly successful in increasing the numbers of the rare toad on the island. Over half of all the current populations on Mallorca are derived from reintroductions.

Although the chytrid fungus can be deadly, toads appear to be doing well in three out of the four populations in Mallorca infected with the chytrid fungus. This finding suggests that there are unidentified factors that are preventing these populations from extinction. The situation is being closely monitored by the Mallorcan conservation authorities.

Global efforts to save amphibians from extinction hinge on species being taken into captivity and bred until they can be reintroduced to the wild. The researchers behind the new study say their findings reveal the risks of reintroducing species into the wild even when health screening is carried out, and highlight the need to ensure that species bred in captivity do not become infected with pathogens from other species.

As soon as Bd was discovered in the late 1990s, screening for the disease was incorporated into amphibian conservation plans. Zoos are now moving towards breeding threatened frogs in strictly quarantined, biosecure facilities in an effort to prevent the disease spreading in captivity.

The chytrid fungus has also been added to a list of diseases that need to be quarantined compiled by the World Organisation for Animal Health. It is hoped that these quarantine measures will help those involved in conservation efforts to stop Bd from spreading further, by controlling the international trade in infected animals.

Dr Mat Fisher, one of the authors of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, said: “Our study has shown that species reintroduction programs can have unpredicted and unintended effects. However in this case we believe that the toads are going to survive the infection. The global conservation community is united in its goal of saving species from the effects of Bd and we now have international legislation which should prevent this disease being accidentally introduced into the wild.”

The researchers reached their conclusions after comparing the specific genotype of Bd from infected wild toads from across Mallorca, and infected toads from mainland Spain, the UK and the rest of the world. They found that the disease in all Mallorcan toads was of the same genotype, and that this was a different genotype from those on mainland Europe and elsewhere.

Bd infects amphibians’ skin and is thought to interfere with their ability to absorb water. Over 257 amphibian species are known to be affected by Bd. Some species are very susceptible and die quickly while others, which are more resistant, are carriers of the pathogen.

Background on the Mallorcan Midwife Toad

Mallorcan midwife toads had been known only from fossils and were thought to be extinct until 1978, when they were ‘discovered’ hiding in inaccessible gorges in the northern Mallorcan mountains.

The Mallorcan midwife toad is on the list of the 800 species most likely to go extinct in the near future unless they receive special protection. They are ranked 55 on a list of the 100 species most threatened with extinction according to the Zoological Society of London EDGE ratings.

 Great news that Jeff Corwin, with backing from Clorox (the first corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark), has taped a documentary on the amphibian mass extinction that premieres this November on Animal Planet. Here’s what I cut and pasted from Animal Planet’s Web site:

Animal Planet and Clorox have joined forces to focus worldwide attention on the deadly fungus that is destroying frogs and other amphibian populations around the world through a new multimedia project called The Vanishing Frog. The film, produced by Discovery Studios, sends Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin on a worldwide mission to uncover clues to the frog’s deadly plight while also unifying viewers with a common cause of environmental and wildlife protection. The Vanishing Frog is slated to premiere Fall 2008.

From the rocky streams of coastal Australia to the jungles of South America, and even to the American West, the world’s frogs are mysteriously vanishing at alarming rates. Frogs and their relatives have thrived on earth for more than 360 million years, but now they’re under serious threat. Experts believe that as many as one-third to one-half of the planet’s 6,000 amphibian species are in danger of disappearing — victims of one of the most significant mass extinctions since the dinosaurs. Why are amphibians in such dire straits? And can we take action to save them? Jeff Corwin, who has experienced the most mammoth of mammals, reptiles and marine life worldwide, will take on these questions in the documentary The Vanishing Frog.

“Frogs are incredibly amazing creatures with a variety of astonishing skills and innate abilities,” commented Corwin. “The plight of the small amphibians is — unfortunately — quite large. Frogs have been with us since the dinosaurs; they are a critical part of the ecosystem and now they are disappearing.”

“Jeff is so passionate about raising awareness for this crisis and has such a deep knowledge of the issues affecting these fascinating creatures that he is the perfect person to take us on this journey of discovery,” noted Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet. “We’re thrilled that our partner Clorox has been an ardent advocate for the amphibian crisis and is taking that commitment even further by partnering with us to produce The Vanishing Frog documentary project.”

Clorox, whose namesake bleach is used in the field everyday in the battle to save the frogs, last fall became the first corporate sponsor of the Amphibian Ark’s “Year of the Frog” initiative and signed on to The Vanishing Frog project while it was still in development.

April 30 /PRNewswire / — While trekking through a remote rainforest in Omar Torrijos National Park in central Panama for the upcoming Animal Planet documentary THE VANISHING FROG, wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, along with biologists Bill Konstant and Edgardo Griffith of the Houston Zoo, uncovered a small population of a critically endangered frog species that scientists feared had disappeared from the wild. The frogs belong to the genus Atelopus, commonly known as Harlequin frogs. The species in question is Atelopus varius, which is one of two species of golden frogs native to Panama, both of which are on the path to extinction in the wild. The specimens in question were found after an exhaustive search of a remote mountain river where the species was formerly found in great numbers just a few years ago. The specimens discovered on April 6, 2008, included a sub-adult which indicates the species still survives in an area where entire populations of amphibians have been wiped out by a deadly fungus.

THE VANISHING FROG is a joint project of Animal Planet and Clorox, which have joined forces to focus worldwide attention on the deadly fungus which is destroying frogs and other amphibian populations around the world. The film is slated to premiere this fall and sends Corwin on a worldwide mission to uncover clues to the frogs’ deadly plight. The crew was filming work of Amphibian Ark, a global alliance dedicated to saving amphibians that cannot be saved in the wild, at the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Panama. The Houston Zoo, along with dozens of other educational institutions, universities, zoos and aquariums in partnership with the AZA, are conducting a last-ditch rescue mission and captive breeding program for Panamanian frogs, toads and salamanders at the Center.

“Some in the scientific community consider this species to be extinct in the wild,” a thrilled Corwin beams. “With this rare discovery, it gives us hope that all is not lost in the battle to save this amphibian and others. But it does urgently underscore the importance of this work and emphasizes how fast and nimble we need to be in drawing attention to this global amphibian crisis.”

“This discovery of additional animals from this population nearing extinction is very significant,” added Dr. Kevin Zippel, program director with Amphibian Ark, a global alliance dedicated to saving amphibians that cannot be saved in the wild. “The golden frogs collected by Jeff and the team will be founders for a captive breeding population. Snatched from the jaws of extinction, these animals and their descendants might someday be used to re-establish golden frogs in Panama, assuming threats in the wild can be mitigated.”

The leading cause of amphibian extinction is habitat destruction, but a deadly fungus known as chytrid has led to a dramatic increase in the rate of extinction especially in Panama, Costa Rica and other Central American countries. Additional factors include climate change, environmental degradation, and unsustainable exploitation of wildlife.

Last fall, Clorox, whose namesake bleach* is used to kill the fungus in captive breeding facilities and disinfect field equipment in the battle to save frogs, became the first corporate sponsor of the “Year of the Frog” and signed on to THE VANISHING FROG project while it was still in development. In addition, Clorox is providing funding to complete the construction of a visitors and education center at the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center.

Animal Planet Media (APM), a multi-media business unit of Discovery Communications, is the world’s only entertainment brand that immerses viewers in the full range of life in the animal kingdom with rich, deep content via multiple platforms and offers animal lovers and pet owners access to a centralized online, television and mobile community for immersive, engaging, high-quality entertainment, information and enrichment.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of these facts were April Fools’ Day jokes? Sadly, they aren’t:

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 http://www.amphibianark.org. 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.

The campaign to stop the mass extinction of amphibian species got a huge shot in the arm today from Clorox – the first official corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark’s Year of the Frog campaign. Clorox issued a press release today and launched a “save the frog” Web site explaining it was providing funding to Amphibian Ark — plus donating a really big amount of Clorox bleach that will be used worldwide in the fight against the killer frog fungus, chytrid.  Kevin Zippel, Amphibian Ark’s program officer, is doing news interviews this morning about it. And on the Web site (also posted on YouTube and shown in this post) there is a great video explaining the amphibian crisis, chytrid’s role, and how Clorox bleach is used to help in the rescue of threatened species. Also on the Web site is a video of Jeff Corwin talking about it.

Just a terrific leadership move by Clorox. So, you have to be wondering: bleach…and frogs? Here’s something from the press release that explains it:

Clorox® Regular-Bleach, an EPA-registered fungicide, is one of the most important tools in Amphibian Ark’s fight to save the frogs. Frogs are treated with anti-fungal medicine and anything else that has contact with water during amphibian rescue is treated with a bleach solution, from boots and clothing to instruments and transport containers, to be sure researchers are not spreading fungus to new, uncontaminated areas. When zoos and aquariums bring frogs that cannot be saved in the wild into protective custody, their enclosures are treated with a bleach solution daily for the first weeks to be sure they remain fungus-free. (Organizations, including U.S. Geological Survey, recommend using a 1:10% solution of bleach, to disinfect equipment that comes in contact with chytrid fungus. )

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