Korean scientists have recently discovered chytrid fungus in introduced bullfrogs in South Korea, although so far, this does not appear to be having an impact on South Korean amphibians. There are thirteen frog and five salamander species in the country, which boats 65 percent of natural forest cover.

Pierre Fidenci, President of Endangered Species International (ESI), talks about the state of amphibians in South Korea in an interview with Mongabay.com, and there is an additional report on The Korean Times web site. In his interview on mongabay.com, Pierre also says:

We put our focus depending on the degree of urgency (not all endangered species have the same degree of extinction, some are much more threatened), our experience and expertise, and the location (we tend to go to places where no other conservation NGOs work). We focus on endangered species found in various types of habitat and serving as protecting umbrella to other endangered species and various wild habitat.

In a similar vein, Amphibian Ark staff have been using an “amphibian species prioritization” process, which is now known as a conservation action planning process  to work with amphibian experts around the world to document their collective knowledge, to produce ordered lists of conservation action required to help save threatened species.

Very interesting story from Mongabay. Read HERE.

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.

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If you’re familiar with the amphibian crisis, you know that between one-third and one-half of all species could disappear in our lifetime unless efforts like Amphibian Ark can rally the planet to avert what would be the most significant mass extinction since the dinosaur. But this statistic reported in Mongabay.com, about the decline of salamanders in Central America, is particularly sobering and alarming: “Overall the average number of salamanders documented by researchers per visit … fell from nearly 80 in the 1970s to 1.8 between 2005 and 2007, a drop of 98 percent.” For the full story, click HERE. It was great to post recently about new amphibian species discoveries in Colombia and India, but this story jolts us back to the grim trend.

“…tadpoles infected with Bd are cured by the fatal disease when submerged in an antifungal drug, itraconazole, for five minutes everyday day for a week.” That’s really hopeful news for all of the zoos and other conservation organizations that are working with Amphibian Ark to avert what otherwise is going to be the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. Read Mongabay’s post about this good news here.

Maybe it wasn’t a chytrid-infected frog hopping the canal. Maybe it was scientists or tourists carrying the fungus on the soles of their shoes. A new report on the Panama Canal breach by the frog-killing chytrid fungus contains new, helpful perspective. Mongabay.com’s Rhett A. Butler writes, among other things, that:

“…there has been cautious hope that the Panama Canal would serve as a natural barrier to slow or even stop the spread of Chytrid to eastern Panama, a particularly species-rich region that had so far avoided the decimation seen in western Panama and Costa Rica. Now an international team of researchers report that Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been detected in three species east of the Panama Canal at Soberanía National Park. Although the scientists note that the results are preliminary and more work needs to be done to determine the origin and incidence of the Chytridiomycosis in Soberanía, the finding is bad news for Panama’s amphibians.

“The scientists say that physical barriers to the spread of Chytrid — including salt water, deforested lowlands where high temperatures kill the fungus, and the Panama Canal — are being “easily overcome” in Panama by “human movement of the pathogen”. In other words, human activities like tourism, scientific research, and construction are facilitating the epidemic. The authors suggest that measures to reduce transportation of Chytrid such as ‘bleaching boots and cleaning field gear between sites, and providing information at eco-lodges’ could help contain the disease.”

Photo from AmphibiaWeb

Mongabay delivers some great news for scientists’ efforts to avert amphibian species extinctions. The yellow Kihansi spray toad of Tanzania has been in great danger of extinction because of the construction of a dam and the chytrid fungus. This new story about great work by the Bronx Zoo reports that there is a critical mass that is being bred (captive breeding) for eventual reintroduction to the wild. Mongabay did a detailed story on the species’ problems in Tanzania back a couple of years ago. Here’s an excerpt from the more recent Mongabay story:

Still while it looks increasingly likely that the Kihansi spray toad has escaped its brush with extinction, amphibians are still in big trouble worldwide. According to the recent Global Amphibian Assessment, about a third of amphibians are threatened with extinction. Pollution, the introduction of alien species, habitat destruction, over-collection, climate change, and the emergence of the pathogenic chytrid fungus have driven more than 170 species to extinction over the past two decades.In an effort to save the most at-risk species, last year saw the launch of the Amphibian Ark, an initiative by zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens to establish captive populations for 500 species.

 

According to Mongabay, the United Nations through its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is helping the developing world reduce carbon emissions by financing projects like hydroelectric dams. A new one under construction in Panama is pending carbon credit certification from CDM. Unfortunately, the dams can wipe out indigenous, fragile wildlife, arguably put something worse into the sky — and in the case of the Panama dam could displace an indigenous tribe. Excerpt:

The American firm (AES Corporation of Virginia) has requested carbon credit certification under the CDM for the project, claiming that the dam will help against global warming. However, recent research suggests that tropical dams release methane, a gas which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Beyond potential emissions from flooding, environmentalists say the dam threatens La Amistad Reserve, Central America’s largest intact rainforest. Biologists have counted more than 215 mammal species, 600 birds, 115 fish, 250 reptiles and amphibians to date in the reserve, including 180 plant species and 40 bird species found no-where else in the world. La Amistad’s biological stars include the quetzal, harpy eagle, howler monkey, jaguarondi, tiger-cat, tapir, and jaguar. In January scientists from the Natural History Museum of London announced three new species of salamander from the Costa Rican side of the park, proving that there was still much left undiscovered in La Amistad Reserve.

Nice to see Mongabay write about the walking frog auction:

The Amphibian Ark, an initiative to save disappearing amphibians from extinction, will auction of the naming rights of a newly discovered ‘walking frog’ in Ecuador to raise money for local conservation efforts.

The naming rights for the frog, which belongs to the Osornophryne genus, will be sold at charitybuzz.com. The winning bidder’s selected name will be published in a scientific journal. Bidding ends May 31. 2008.

Auctioning off naming rights for species is increasingly used by conservation groups to raise money for protecting biodiversity. 

 

 
Walking frog. Courtesy of the Amphibian Ark

Walking frogs are known for having no tadpole stage. Instead froglets emerge directly out of eggs.

More than one-third the world’s amphibians are at risk due to habitat loss, the introduction of alien species, overexploitation as food and pets, pollution, climate change, and the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease.

Fascinating story on Mongabay.com about the frogs of Madagascar, including an interview with Dr. Franco Andreone, described by Mongabay as the “Renaissance-man of herpetofauna.” He is the Madagascar chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group, a major backer of Amphibian ArkDr. Andreone has written before that “Madagascar holds the potential to become a worldwide model region for a concerted and collaborative effort of researchers, institutions and NGOs to set up a system of efficient protection, study and long-term monitoring of amphibians.” Excerpts from the Mongabay story:

Mongabay: Amphibians have begun to receive increased attention from conservation organizations due to their great vulnerability–programs like EDGE and the Amphibian Ark are working specifically on amphibians. Do you think enough is being done to stave off massive amphibian extinction?

Franco Andreone: Difficult to say. In general, I believe that we will observe repeated and sometimes small local extinctions. Only the species with very small distribution areas will suffer heavily from habitat alterations and pathologies. I am thinking, for example, of high altitude endemics and species that live next to human pollutions. In other cases it will be difficult to understand the loss in terms of amphibian biodiversity. In Madagascar it’s necessary to increase collecting data in the wild, since for many species we do not even have information about the sexual dimorphism, simply because the species is known from a limited number of individuals held in natural history museums. Anyhow, amphibians will decrease in numbers all around the world, excepting, as usual, for the introduced and exotic species. I am thinking, for example, of the big cane toad (Bufo marinus), introduced in Australia; the huge bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus, that is also a vector of the amphibian chytrid fungus; and of the African clawed frogs Xenopus laevis. These species, where introduced, have proven to be real pests. But the small and tiny frogs of the Malagasy rainforests are really next to catastrophic declines if — for example — the amphibian chytrid fungus (currently said to be absent in Madagascar) is accidentally introduced.
 

Mongabay: What can the public do to help conserve biodiversity, especially herpetofauna?

Franco Andreone: First of all it is important to increase public awareness. Education plays an important role for the public to learn that frogs, toads and salamanders are not only beautiful and interesting animals, but are part of the great diversity of life. Their protection and conservation is, in the end, the protection of our common world. Then it is important to do our best to save not only the big forests of the tropics where huge amphibian diversity is present, but also the small natural habitats that we still have in our countryside. The conservation of a small pool and the natural environments surrounding it is often a way to save important amphibian populations. Better information and a careful management of the natural habitats are the best way to conserve biodiversity all around the world. Donations to the Amphibian Specialist Group (JEFF’S NOTE: ASG is one of Amphibian Ark’s main backers.) and associate programs will help to conduct field surveys on the threatened batrachofauna, and to purchase the last fragments of focal areas for amphibians.

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