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.