Amphibian Ark

Last week, I was thrilled to be working with Dr. Roberto Ibanez from the Smithsonian Institute and Heidi Ross and Edgardo Griffith, from the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center, to administer a three-day husbandry essentials workshop in El Valle de Anton, Panama.

Consulting instructors Allan Pessier (San Diego Zoo), Brad Wilson (Veterinarian, Atlanta), Robert Hill (Atlanta Botanical Garden) and Joe Mendelson (Zoo Atlanta) also attended and participated in lectures and hand’s on demonstrations aimed at training staff and students in the essential husbandry techniques for maintaining assurance populations of endangered amphibians at facilities in Panama.

The collaborative efforts of the Panamanian Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project ( being launched at the Summit Zoo outside of Panama city aims to rescue dozens of species utilizing biosecure shipping containers and down the line to provide animals for important chytrid research in situ. Working at this facility, some of the students participating in this workshop will become the next stewards of panamanian amphibians.


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, and there is an additional report on The Korean Times web site. In his interview on, 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.

Frogs are disappearing at an alarming rate in Europe: “Fifty-nine percent of all European amphibians and 42 percent of reptiles are declining and face even greater risk than European mammals and birds, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.” CLICK HERE FOR FULL STORY.

A terrific story in Friday’s Christian Science Monitor (story HERE) reports on the valiant efforts to stave off amphibian extinctions in Panama. The story details the work of a Panamanian with the tattoo of a toad on his calf who has teamed with a Wisconsin woman who used to be in the Peace Corps. The ravages of chytrid are detailed. A very good read. Good to see the connection to Amphibian Ark, and good to see quotes from the Ark’s Kevin Zippel.

Sometimes (OK, often) Peta takes stances against zoos. Zoos are integral to the campaign to avert the mass extinction of amphibians, so this blog is pro zoos. But Peta has inspired a 19-year-old to change her name to Cutout to draw attention to Peta’s fight against frog dissections. Story here.  If only Amphibian Ark could inspire people to change their names to Amphibian Ark. Or, Amphiby N. Ark. Or, Year of the Frog. Something like that. To the young woman named Cutout (nee Jennifer Thornburg), I want you to know that I signed the Peta petition you wanted me to. Now, would you sign the Amphibian Ark petition to urge governments to rally to protect endangered amphibian species? You see, from one-third to one-half of the 6,000-or-so amphibian species will go extinct in our lifetime unless emergency measures are taken. Amphibians are earth’s canaries in the coal mine, warning us of changes in our environment that are growing worse and will one day affect humans. Please go to the Amphibian Ark petition here. Thanks.

It just struck me that the financial crisis we’re reeling in offers a parallel of sorts to the crisis facing the amphibian animal class (which is the point of this blog, after all). Instead of wealth disappearing, it’s entire species. Imagine losing 50% of all you have. Now imagine losing 50% percent of all species of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians. That’s what scientists predict in our lifetime. It’s not risky loans behind the frog’s demise, it’s climate change, loss of habitat, pollution, and a toxic fungus called chytrid.

Make no mistake, the amphibian animal class is in crisis after thriving since the days of the dinosaur. Now they’re in real danger of going the way of the dinosaur. It won’t take $700 billion to save them, just about $100,000 per species or $50 million in total.

Learn more at

We’ve been talking about at least one-third of amphibian species disappearing in our lifetime unless emergency measures are taken. Now this: scientists with the Zoological Society of London predicting that half of Europe’s amphibian species are en route to extinction by 2050, primarily because of habitat destruction, global warming and the chytrid fungus. Amphibian Ark patron Sir David Attenborough was on hand at the announcement. This is the first time I’ve noticed a specific year mentioned re: impending extinctions. We’re 42 years away from that doomsdate. There is a plan to avert the mass extinction. It’s called Amphibian Ark.

 An exceprt from the Zoological Society of London Web site:

“Amphibians are the lifeblood of many environments, playing key roles in the functions of ecosystems, and it is both extraordinary and terrifying that in just a few decades the world could lose half of all these species,” commented Sir David Attenborough. “I am delighted to be working with the Zoological Society of London to promote amphibian conservation, in the hope that we will not be hearing the dying croaks of these amazing creatures in the years to come.”

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