April 2008

 It’s heartening to see a major Flickr group like Voices in the Wilderness create a vault of wonderful amphibian photos to support Amphibian Ark and Year of the Frog. Here’s link to their page.



This just in from Leipzig, Germany:  Xenia von Sachsen, Princess of Saxony, kisses a frog and argues for “the same kind of environmental lobbying as ocean mammals or big cats.” From the press release:

Today, one hundred primary-school pupils and twenty kindergarten children experienced an unusual, contemporary version of the fairy tale ‘The Frog Prince’ at Leipzig Zoo: there was a visit by Xenia, Princess of Saxony, who has a soft spot for amphibians, and who demonstrated this to the children by giving a frog a symbolic kiss. The twenty-one-year-old was at the zoo as a celebrity ambassador for the ‘2008 – Year of the Frog’ campaign, at the invitation of the zoo director, Dr Junhold.


‘The princess represents dynamism and a forward-looking approach’ said Jörg Junhold, explaining why a young princess was chosen for the initiative, to draw attention to amphibian extinction across the world. In taking part, the princess joins in with the efforts made by Sir David Attenborough, who is the patron of the global amphibian campaign and has already been able to take on board personalities such as Jean-Michel Cousteau and Jane Goodall. ‘Frogs should be given the same kind of environmental lobbying as ocean mammals or big cats’, said Xenia, Princess of Saxony, who found out on the spot which amphibian projects Leipzig Zoo supports. The zoo currently has twelve species of amphibians, two of which are categorised as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): the Blue Poison Dart Frog and the Vietnamese Salamander. Both species can be seen in the ‘Arche’ (Ark) discovery centre, where visitors’ attention is also drawn to the amphibian crisis.


The topic of amphibian protection has never been so relevant. Of the roughly 6,000 frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians known today, thirty to fifty per cent are at risk of extinction. This makes amphibians the most endangered category of vertebrate at present. The reasons for the rapid extinction of the species are environmental pollution, climate change and the increasing destruction of their habitats, as well as the introduction of foreign species and a parasitic chytrid fungus. This fungus, originally only indigenous to South Africa, is spreading at lightning speed through Central and South America and Australia. It attacks the amphibians’ sensitive skin. Wherever the infection proliferates, up to eighty per cent of animals die within only a few months, which can have a devastating effect on ecological communities.



Amphibians are prominently featured in a new book that explains how a loss of biodiversity hurts medicine. The book, “Sustaining Life: How Human Life Depends On Biodiversity,” was written by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein from the Center of Health and the Global Environment of the Harvard Medical School. The forward was written by Edward O. Wilson. Below are excerpts from a Reuters news story. But the bottom line is this: put these endangered species on “the ark” — the rescue program directed through Amphibian Ark — or lose more medical breakthroughs that would improve the human condition.

The book highlights many examples of potential drugs. The southern gastric brooding frog, found in Australian rainforest in the 1980s, raised their young in the female’s stomach using enzymes that preliminary studies showed could be used to treat human ulcers. But the frogs became extinct.
“The valuable medical secrets they held are now gone forever,” said Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, the key authors of the book from the Center of Health and the Global Environment of the Harvard Medical School, in a statement released by the United Nations on Wednesday.
Treatments from frogs alone include toxins from the Panamanian Poison Frog that could be useful for heart disease, painkillers from the Ecuadorian Poison Frog, anti-bacterial compounds from the skin of the African Clawed Frog, and compounds from the Chinese Large-Webbed Bell Toad that dilate blood vessels and so could treat high blood pressure.
Frog glue could repair cartilage and other tissue tears in humans, but climatic changes have to led to habitat loss and mutations in frogs. The United Nations is leading talks for a new climate pact to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.
“Amphibians are particularly sensitive,” said Achim Steiner of the U.N. Environment Programme, in a press conference at an environment summit in Singapore.

A salute to the press release writer for the Auckland, New Zealand, City Council. Hadn’t seen the word “frogtastic” yet!

Frogtastic holiday fun at Auckland Zoo

Auckland City Council Media release

Frogtastic holiday fun at Auckland Zoo

Leap into the zoo these school holidays, 19 April to 4 May, for a frog-filled fun day out and support International Year of the Frog.

Auckland Zoo knows “it’s not easy being green” and has enlisted Princess Lily, Prince Archey and Cadbury Freddo Frog to create some frogabulous fun for zoo goers. Kids can test their frog skills by hopping along the frog footprints into the zoo and playing leapfrog and hopscotch – with great prizes to be won!

Prince Archey, frog prince and frog expert, is on a mission, and needs help during the two free daily interactive shows (10.45am and 11.45am) in the Grasslands Theatre. Enjoy all the fun of an old time pantomime as Cadbury Freddo Frog, Princess Lily and Prince Archey demonstrate why frogs are such amazing amphibians – especially our own New Zealand native frogs.

Kidzone transforms into Frog Central for the holidays. There’ll be a daily frog talk (1pm), where zookeepers will share their love of frogs and give kids the chance to see frogs up close. Kids will also have the chance to unleash their inner frog by making a wearable frog mask.

Everyone can help frogs by purchasing an ASB Kashin Dollar. Each dollar goes to the Amphibian Ark Year of the Frog campaign to support the plight of frogs around the world and in New Zealand. Along with helping frogs, each dollar comes with a cool treat, and the chance to win some jumbo sized prizes, including the grand prize – a $500 Leapfrog prize pack from iQ Toys. There will also be daily prize packs to be won, courtesy of iQ Toys, and other great spot prizes.

“Frogs are toadily cool and we want to get zoo goers jumping with joy, croaking their praises and raising money to help them,” says Auckland Zoo events coordinator, Jackie Sanders.

“After thriving for over 360 million years, a third of the world’s 6300 amphibian species are now threatened with extinction. Frogs play a vital role in our ecosystem, benefit agriculture and minimise the spread of diseases, including malaria,” says Ms Sanders.


On this morning after Earth Day, check out the new campaign by Amphibian Ark to mobilize people so that we can stop the mass extinction of amphibians. Here’s the news release and fact sheet. Here are 50 ways we can help.

And if you’d like to sign the petition, here’s the link.

So for Earth Day, how can our amphibian friends help teachers and home school parents instill the right lessons in our children? Here are some good resources:

National Geographic offers a “Frog Alert! Frog Alert!” lesson plan online. It’s designed for kindergarten through second grade, and it focuses on the effects of water pollution.

Go to a nearby stream and clean up a small section by removing garbage. (But be safe.) Here’s a thought providing activity that the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. did this weekend. As you do the cleanup, you can explain what pollution in our waterways does to amphibians.

Here’s a slew of kid-friendly PowerPoint presentations, courtesy of theteachersguide.com.

There’s a kid-friendly lesson on how to draw a frog here.

And, even a lesson plan on tadpole-to-frog developmental stages using clay and Crayola markers.

Finally, spend some time on the Amphibian Ark Web site to explain the dangers facing amphibians, and have the child sign the online petition.

And, come back later this month for more ideas on how your child can help save the frog. Something big is being planned.

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