Unfortunately, the New Zealand Government wants to make a quick buck by mining some of the beautiful New Zealand forests which are home to Archey’s frogs (Leiopelma archeyi) and Hochstetter’s frogs (Leiopelma hochstetteri). If this goes ahead then we will be able to document the extinction of two more frog species.

Archey's Frog. Iamge: Patrick Crawley.

In the 1990s areas of New Zealand that were considered to be of “high conservation value” (including many National Parks) were placed on Schedule 4 which recognised their conservation significance and proclaimed them as a “No go” area for all other activities. The New Zealand Government is now asking for public submissions about their proposal to remove some of this high conservation value land from Schedule 4 to open it up for mining (coal, gold iron ore and rare minerals). The areas to be mined include several long-term frog monitoring sites where the frog populations have been continually monitored for over 40 years – this represents the best data on frog populations anywhere in the world.

In addition the proposed mining area includes the ‘type’ locality of Archey’s frog (Tokatea on the Coromandel Peninsula) and Hochstetter’s frogs (Coromandel Peninsula). Archey’s frogs only occur in two areas of New Zealand and the Coromandel is considered the ‘stronghold’ population.

“Save our frogs – stop the mining” really is the biggest issue in New Zealand conservation – of course saving the long-tailed bat, woodroses and a North Island brown kiwi along the way is important too!

These endangered frogs (Archey’s are Critically Endangered losing 88% of their population since 1996) are just hanging in there and without our help they will disappear. If we destroy their habitat then we will quickly lose a part of one of the most important pieces of New Zealand history as well as a large piece of the amphibian evolutionary tree. We have a moral obligation to protect these original inhabitants of New Zealand – the little people of the forest.

For more information on how the frogs will be affected (including maps of distribution and proposed areas to be mined) click here……

To see some ppt about the mining issue during a recent Panel Discussion (including frogs) click here…….

For more information about the mining in Coromandel click here…….

Please make a submission to the New Zealand Government by clicking here …..

It’s been reported that the urgency of biodiversity takes a back seat to the urgency of climate change, with much of the credit going to the one-two punch of a science story telling machine called IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and a powerful narrator, Al Gore.  The biodiversity camp is following suit now with plans for its own fact-based story vehicle (and acronym), IMoSEB, or the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity. Its steering committee just wrapped up a meeting in Montpellier, France, two days ago, and a summary of the meeting just popped on the Internet.  For those who care about amphibians, or any threatened species, this is necessary reading.  Below, I’ll first paste  the official “final outcome” section. Later, I’ll paste some meeting notes that show some of the interesting questions raised earlier in the meeting. The point is, the scientists for whom animals and plants are Job One are trying hard to grab our attention and that of our governments, and challenge all of us to increase our mindshare for biodiversity. Memo to IMoSEB: please hurry.

  • “Final Outcome: In its Statement, the IMoSEB International Steering Committee recommends … establishment of a means, and enhancement of existing institutions, to provide an objective source of information about biodiversity change and its impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being, via a range of activities, including:
    • building on and promoting periodic global and sub-global assessments of the state of, and trends in, biodiversity and ecosystem services, and their effects on human well-being at multiple spatial scales;

    • undertaking or promoting special studies on emerging issues of importance to biodiversity, particularly those which are transnational and/or cross-cultural in nature;

    • contributing to rapid and authoritative scientific information on biodiversity-related emergencies at short time scales; and

    • promoting the development of the capacity to generate and use the information, methodology and techniques required to accomplish the above objectives.”

OK, this isn’t in Al Gore’s “real people” language yet, but it’s a start! I thought the meeting notes describing the debates earlier in the meeting were illuminating:

  • “On improved communication, a participant from the media questioned the role that an IMoSEB might play in ensuring that biodiversity enters the “core” of the news agenda, as climate change has.”

  • “A broad consensus emerged that the links between biodiversity and human well-being should be a key focus, with several participants cautioning against a purely conservation-based ideology.”

  • “He (not sure who “he” is) argued that if the mechanism is to successfully place biodiversity on the global agenda, it should report to the UN General Assembly …  Several participants suggested alternative institutional homes, including: the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the UN Development Programme. One participant argued that administration of an IMoSEB should be devolved to multiple UN bodies because many of them are involved in the different aspects of biodiversity.”

  • “One participant proposed adding a reference to the need to promote the linkages between biodiversity, climate change and environmental pollution in order to signal to other conventions the biodiversity community’s willingness to collaborate.”

  • “The debate focused on recommending the establishment of a means to provide an objective source of information about biodiversity change and its impact on ecosystem services and human well-being … “

I love basketball, but I was never good at it. That’s not Coach Dyer’s fault; he offered encouragement to me back in the seventh grade. I simply didn’t practice enough — didn’t repeat the muscle movements over and over again so that the proper form and motion happened automatically. Muscle memory, they call it.  

Now, I have to admit, I really don’t love amphibians. I never had a frog as a pet, never dragged my parents to the amphibian house when we would visit the zoo, and never understood, until recently, that they are the canaries in the coal mine for our planet’s health. But now that I know Kermit’s in big trouble, I can’t walk away from it.  A team of us at my company is helping a new organization, named Amphibian Ark, to rally support — from governments, corporations, foundations, and consumers — so that it can capture and breed hundreds of threatened amphibian species. 

Among the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List of most endangered wildlife, amphibians hold the distinction of potentially losing up to one-half of their entire class of animal life to extinction in our lifetime — almost 3,000 species. That would be the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs. Amphibian Ark (AArk) was created by IUCN, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums to do the urgent work that’s necessary to avert the mass extinction, while other organizations will tackle the longer term problems, such as  pollution and habitat loss.

It hasn’t been difficult getting media coverage for the issue, thankfully. But the ultimate success of Amphibian Ark depends on raising $50-$60 million pretty quickly. We need to make a personal impact with the people around the world who write checks, large and small. And let’s be honest, the number of environmental causes competing for funding is starting to look like an L.A. freeway at 4:00.

What separates Amphibian Ark, however, is its relative simplicity and potential for a speedy, happy ending. Once the money starts to flow, Kevin Zippel, a herpetologist and the master builder of the AArk plan, will dispatch scientists to remote areas of the world to capture species, then distribute the frogs, salamanders, newts, toads, and caecilians to multiple zoos.  They’re placing each species in several locations to reduce the chance of disease delivering a coup de grace.

Kevin would make a good basketball coach. He knows the X’s and O’s for saving frogs. He just needs a good booster organization. And we’re building it for him.

It seems to me that, in the U.S. at least, many of us think about our environment the same way I thought about basketball. It’s fun to take a few shots, but not much fun to stay after practice to shoot a hundred free throws. When you miss, you have to retrieve the errant ball, return to the line, and do it all over again. A hundred times, every day.  We need to develop muscle memory to face and manage the really important environmental issues. If we begin with a regimen a small steps to save our planet, confidently expecting a positive outcome for our sacrifice, the momentum will alter the future for our children and their children. A quick “win” would do wonders for conditioning that muscle. AArk can provide that quick win.Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, the president of the St. Louis Zoo, is the visionary who brought us into this issue. He asked us to sit down with him to discuss the action plan for fixing the amphibian crisis. He calls Amphibian Ark a landmark learning experience for mankind. I believe he’s right.

They’re protecting the Great Crested Newt from a construction project in East Northamptonshire in central England. According to the story, 70 percent of this species is located in the UK.  

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the African Clawed Frog was discovered to be a heck of a good pregnancy test. The species is indigenous to southern Africa and is immune to something else indigenous to the region — chytrid fungus. So when the frog was shipped around the world for this medical use, it brought the chytrid fungus along for the ride.  Wherever the fungus took root in countless new places around the world, it was fatal to 80% of the new species it encountered. So what’s it really do? See “TBS Program…” post from yesterday. Or here are two articles: a good overview by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and one filled with science jargon by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Learn about the petition that recently was launched in Budapest at the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums conference.  Here’s a Reuters wire story about it.