children


Houston Zoo received a grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife to begin a new conservation education program called Toad Trackers, and they have recently completed their first two classes.

In the Toad Tracker program, teenagers are monitoring wild Gulf Coast Toads (Bufo nebulifer) within the zoo grounds. It is a series of classes in the classroom and in the field, and they also learn about global amphibian declines, in addition to the field training which focuses on collecting morphological, environmental and geographic data (GPS).

The students are thorougyl enjoying themselves so far, and hopefully, are taking away important messages about looking after the environment and amphibians in general. The program also includes a post analysis session after the field training, which includes organizing and answering the data they collected and they must answer several conservation discussion questions. They have to do this to become a certified expert “Toad Tracker”.

More information about this program can be found on the Zoo’s web site, http://www.houstonzoo.org/toad-trackers/

This is another example of a great program developed by zoos to help conserve the world’s amphibians – what programs are your zoos involved with?

Kevin Zippel, program officer for Amphibian Ark, shared with me a recent paper he helped author with other frog-erati of the herpetology world, all of them associated with the Herpetologists Education Committee of the
Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR)
. I know my daughters, when in elementary school, were thrilled when the classroom would adopt a snake or a guinea pig. What great lessons occur when a teacher instructs children how to care for an animal, and when children take turns providing that care. Now a movement is under foot to involve classrooms in the rescue and care of amphibians. A noble idea, but one fraught with danger if the amphibian were to catch a disease from a reused aquarium, and then is released back into the wild, introducing a dangerous new pathogen to a woodland area or pond.

Zippel and company overview the situation, and provide practical steps that teachers should take, in the paper you can access by clicking here.

I found it interesting that the authors go out of their way to not condemn the idea of bring amphibians into the classroom. Here’s an excerpt I particularly liked:

It was of primary importance to us not to simply squelch this classroom exercise for
reasons of risk avoidance. To us, this exercise is a great example of the spirit of
encouraging a collective public conscience of “bioliteracy” outlined so eloquently by
Ehrlich and Pringle (2008:11584):

“The earlier in the developmental process comes exposure to
nature, the better the odds of inspiring devotion to biodiversity
and its conservation. It is a rare conservationist who did not
encounter nature as a child. Every one of us can go to
elementary schools to show pictures of animals and plants and
tell funny stories about ecology. The teachers will be happy to
have us. More ambitious people might think about how to
finance and institutionalize school field trips to natural areas.”

Amphibian Ark received this letter from Sage. Sage example, don’t you think? The child was responding to the Leap Day email that Jean-Michel Cousteau sent on behalf of Amphibian Ark.