planet in peril


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…… http://www.nzfrogs.org/

To see some ppt about the mining issue during a recent Panel Discussion (including frogs) click here……. http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/nrl/mining/index.html

For more information about the mining in Coromandel click here……. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/saving-our-environment/threats-and-impacts-/mining-/mining-coromandel

Please make a submission to the New Zealand Government by clicking here ….. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/mining

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The Kihansi spray toad used to live in the spray region of the Kihansi waterfall, in Tanzania, and relied heavily on the spray from the waterfall to maintain a constant temperature and humidity in its environment. But due to the construction of a dam which funded by the World Bank, the waterfall has been disrupted, and the Kihansi spray toad has recently been declared Extinct in the Wild.

A number of small populations of this species exist in US zoos, and in spit of several setbacks with the initial population of 500 animals that were collected, the current population now sits at around 470 animals.

How many more species will become extinct in the wild, relying entirely on ex situ “ark” populations for their survival, before we start to take better care of our planet and ALL of its inhabitants?

More information on the Kihansi spray toad can be found here.

Rabb's fringe-limbed tree frog

Rabb's fringe-limbed tree frog. Photo: Brad Wilson.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has just released its 2009 Red List, and it includes over 17,000 species that are currently threatened by extinctin. The Red List is a comprehensive, global approach for evaluating the conservation status of animal and plant species. This method of evaluation began in 1994, and forthcoming Red List workshops will now include the Amphibian Ark’s Conservation Needs Assessment process to evaluate and prioritize amphibians for the specific conservation needs.

The 2009 list contains 1,895 amphibian species that are threatened due to deforestation, climate change, disease and other factors.

The Kihansi spray toad of southern Tanzania is now thought to be extinct in the wild. A dam upstream of Kihansi Falls has dried up the gorge where it lived, and an aggressive fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis appears to have pushed the toad population over the edge, the group said.

The same fate could soon befall the unusually large Rabb’s fringe-limbed tree frog, which glides through the forest using its big webbed feet to steer safely to the ground. It is the only known frog species where the tadpoles feed off skin shed by the male while he guards the young.

The chytrid fungus that causes chytridiomycosis reached central Panama in 2006, a year after scientists first discovered the tree frog. Since then the fungus — believed to be spread by international trade and global warming — has virtually wiped out the wild frog population.

Click here for the full article about the 2009 Red List update.

This news release was just pushed out worldwide. It captures what’s happening on Monday, and includes some assessment of what’s been accomplished so far in mobilizing the world to save frogs:

On New Year’s Eve, Zoos Hop into ‘The Year of the Frog’ with Leapfrog Events  Starting in New Zealand and Ending in California

LONDON, Dec. 28 /PRNewswire/ — A child’s game will be the focal point of a serious campaign to avert a mass extinction of amphibian species when zoos around the world hold leapfrog events on Dec. 31 to usher in “the year of the frog.” Beginning at the Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, and ending at The Living Desert in Palm Desert, California, zoo visitors will form leapfrog lines and hop over each other — to stretch their legs, and to raise awareness.From one-third to one-half of the planet’s 6,000 amphibian species are in danger of extinction. As many as 165 species may already be extinct.

Amphibian Ark, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) have declared 2008 “The Year of the Frog” to raise awareness and critical funding.Countries with zoos holding New Year’s Eve leapfrog events include, by time zone, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Russia, South Africa, Latvia, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Mexico, and Colombia. 

Amphibians are often called “the canaries in the coal mine,” and when hundreds of species are in decline it serves as a global warning to other species. Amphibian Ark, part of the Global Conservation Network, a 501(c)3 organization, develops, promotes, and guides short-term captive management of the most threatened amphibians. Amphibian Ark’s work makes possible the long-term survival of species for which adequate protection in the wild is not currently possible. 

A list of many participating zoos can be found on http://www.amphibianark.org. The Web site explains the crisis, features an online petition and links to blogs from conservation and wildlife experts, and accepts donations to help fund Amphibian Ark’s work. It will cost $50-$60 million to rescue the 500 most threatened species.  The leapfrog events are preceded by considerable momentum for the campaign to save amphibians:

– Sir David Attenborough, whose “Life in Cold Blood” television series on amphibians and reptiles will debut in the spring, last week attended the unveiling of a frog sculpture at the London Zoo to help usher in the special year.

– Jeff Corwin, co-host of CNN’s “Planet in Peril” specials and host of ”The Jeff Corwin Experience” on Animal Planet, has taped PSAs.

– Earlier this month the Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX) became the first corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark.

– The U.S.-based National Association of Biology Teachers announced a partnership with Amphibian Ark that will more deeply engage 6,000 teachers in the cause.

The U.N. conference on climate change in Bali is generating a flurry of headlines that should make the biodiversity camp jealous.  It’s a boisterous, argumentative, messy, emotional cacaphony — but from a satellite view, we can take heart that the crisis is being discussed, and progress being made.  (The Convention on Biological Diversity Web site has a news page where you can track stories from the conference.) According to Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the conference: “The outcome of this conference will, to a degree, determine whether Bali — and other vulnerable places — are destined to become a lost paradise, or not. If the outcome of this conference keeps pace with the many positive political signals of the past year, we are on a good road to preventing a lost paradise.” Another threatened paradise discussed at the conference is the Amazon forest. The WWF announced that 60 percent of the Amazon could be lost by 2030 because of global warming and deforestation.

Reading all of the stories coming from Bali, and reading much less about the dire plight of animal life, I was reminded of a Jack Nicholson line in the movie, “As Good As It Gets.” Jack’s character is pleading with a friend to help him think through a personal crisis, and when the friend’s advice isn’t helpful, Jack bellows: “I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!” (And what about the Elvis verse, “A little less talk, a little more action”?) Imagine either line being croaked by a frog, the last in a species, covered in chytrid somewhere in South America, that somehow was able to read the news out of Bali.

The irony is this: Climate change is heating up earth’s sixth major extinction event, but we can’t get enough people focused on the biodiversity crisis because they’re concentrating on climate change. It’s not a complaint. Just the situation we’re in.

Check out Jeff Corwin’s video thank you to the National Association of Biology Teachers for their new partnership with Amphibian Ark. It’s being shown at the NABT’s conference in Atlanta tonight. I remember watching another video of Jeff on YouTube in which he explained his roots in education, having studied at Bridgewater State College, the first teachers college in the U.S.  … that his best friend is a teacher … and that he considers it the most important job in the world. So Jeff Corwin talking to teachers about the amphibian crisis is a natural fit.

The frogs have a terrific ally in Jeff Corwin (CNN Planet in Peril with Anderson Cooper, The Jeff Corwin Experience on Animal Planet).