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These 100 children took part in a mass leapfrog event today (Wednesday 13th February) to launch a conservation campaign at Marwell Zoological Park, near Winchester, England, to help save some of the world’s rarest animals. Up to half of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction and a staggering 165 species of frogs, toads and salamanders have already gone extinct. The children launched the wildlife appeal ‘Leap 4 Life’ with 1892 leapfrogs – each jump representing an amphibian species that is under threat. This photo shows them leaping in front of the 16th Century Marwell Hall, Hampshire.

The Hampshire based conservation charity is helping to avert the amphibian crisis – which equates to the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs – by building a bio-secure amphibian centre in anticipation of receiving a high priority species, which without help is certain to become extinct.

The amphibians are dying out because a deadly fungus called Amphibian Chytrid stops the frogs, toads and salamanders from being able to breath (through their skins) and thus suffocate to death. This deadly fungus is travelling uncontrollably and at such an alarming rate that no amphibian is safe.

Geoff Read, Section Manager for Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates believes that Marwell’s centre is vital:” Until a cure is developed to stop the fungus the safekeeping and captive management of threatened amphibians is the only way to ensure their long-term survival.  Once the threat has been controlled it is hoped many species will be released back into the wild.”

The world’s leading conservationists (BLOG NOTE: with Amphibian Ark in the middle of all the action) have come together to declare 2008 “The Year of the Frog” and Patron of the campaign, Sir David Attenborough, realizes the importance that parks, like Marwell can make: “The global zoo and aquarium community has taken on the challenge with enthusiasm and is providing appropriate facilities and breeding grounds within their institutions.”

(Source: Marwell Zoological Park press release)