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.

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 (www.amphibianrescue.org) 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.

Rhinoderma darwinii. Photo by Mono Andes

Rhinoderma darwinii. Photo by Mono Andes

Just back from a very quick but productive trip to Santiago and Concepcion to see the current breeding facilities for Darwin’s Frog Rhinoderma darwinii. This unique species was historically found in many places in Chile and Argentina but habitat loss and other pressures have worked to dwindle its numbers. The only other species of Darwin’s Frog Rhinoderma rufum has not been seen in many years and continues to elude field researchers. Both exhibit forms of parental care with the male carrying tadpoles in it’s vocal sack.  

The National Zoo facility in Santiago is coming along really well. The building looks fantastic and will surely be a treat for visitors peering into the lab. Atlanta Botanical Gardens staff were there recently installing tanks and plumbing and Marcela and Mauricio are working hard to get things polished off. It will serve as an excellent facility for showcasing this important conservation effort and the commitments of the players to keep it going. I think they hope to start with a few specimens this winter if I recall. The Atlanta Botanical Garden has launched a website at  www.savedarwinsfrogs.org detailing their efforts on this project. 
The Concepcion facility is also looking good. Marcela Tirado and I visited for the day and by luck met up with Klaus Busse who was in town. Klaus offered much of his wonderful experience to Dr. Juan Carlos Ortiz and graduate student Carlos Barrientos who have been maintaining eleven animals there since April 09. I witnessed a very solid connection made between National Zoo and Concepcion staff regarding husbandry issues, food colonies, and overall collaboration on their programs.
My hunch is that they will reproduce them very soon, as we observed calling and amplexus all day! 

The connection between frog deformities and pesticides and herbicides has been reported a lot. But here is a new study by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale that shows how little it really takes to harm amphibians. Imagine there was a pool of water in a farm pond that had the presence of only a trace (0.0000000003*) of pesticide ingredient edosulfan. That would be enough to kill half of the pond’s frog population. Take the 3 and make it 8, and every frog dies. Here’s the news release explaining the study:http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/555153/?sc=rssn (*Double check my decimal conversion. What I’m attempting to show is 0.3 parts per billion.)

An excerpt from the release:

The foothill yellow-legged frog is especially susceptible to the chemicals such as endosulfans, which kill by essentially overloading the nervous system and rendering breathing muscles useless. Europe and Australia each have banned the use of the chemical as a pesticide, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also is studying the issue, Sparling said.

Sparling is optimistic humans can find ways to both farm on a large enough scale to feed the population and protect non-pest animals.

“To produce crops to provide for the world we have to use pesticides, and I’m not anti-pesticide,” he said. “But it’s important for us as scientists, agriculturalists and environmental protectors to make sure we continue developing pesticides that are as protective as possible of non-target animals as can be, both in the chemicals we use and application methods.”


Click link below for video

Click link below for video

You have to see this video from BBC showing tadpoles swarming their mom to feast on her infertile eggs. This rare glimpse is something you wouldn’t be able to see if it weren’t for the captive breeding programs of organizations to save endangered species. It’s all connected to the umbrella program of Amphibian Ark.

Excerpts from the story:

The remarkable footage was recorded at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in Jersey, which took in 12 of the rescued frogs. Twenty-six others went to Parken Zoo in Sweden, and 12 are now housed in ZSL London Zoo.

“We thought that the eggs would come out and drop to the bottom of the nest and then the tadpoles would start eating them. But the footage shows about 40 tadpoles congregating around the female and eating the eggs as they come out of the female’s body.”

There are about 6,000 species of amphibians on the planet today. By the time we pass on and leave the world in our children’s hands, one-third to one-half of the species will have gone extinct. It’s projected by scientists to be the most significant mass extinction since the dinosaur. Maybe you’ve heard about this. Maybe not. But following is a straightforward accounting of the tectonic changes behind the massive, global disappearance of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians.  The way to act is to read up and help Amphibian Ark at www.amphibianark.org.

Chytrid, the AIDS of amphibiaChytrid is a fungal borne disease that is toxic to 80% of amphibian species. For thousands of years, it was confined to a section of Africa. The African Clawed Frog was one of the lucky 20% of species that was immune to the disease. But when the medical industry discovered African Clawed Frogs could be used as an ingenious pregnancy test for humans, they shipped the frogs out of Africa to all parts of the world. The species carried the Chytrid fungus with it, and the disease exploded. Most recently it has decimated the chicken frog population of Montserrat, and crossed the Panama Canal. Here are links to more information:

Watch for future posts that complete the five reasons:

Habitat destruction –

Pollution –

Global Warming –

Indifference –

Oh Daughtry, so un-Idol of you

Oh Daughtry, so un-Idol of you

In Chris Daughtry’s “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me,” the American Idol crooner writes he is not a fan of the frog. See No. 2 item in the US Weekly  page above.  It’s OK, though. You did give me something to post on an otherwise slow Sunday night. For those of you who love Daughtry and amphibians, find out how to help at http://www.amphibianark.org.