Thanks to the CoquiFrogNews blog , I learned that Jeff Corwin’s Animal Planet special on the amphibian crisis can be viewed in its entirety HERE. Mr. Corwin is right up there with Sir David Attenborough in raising awareness of the crisis, and he is a major supporter of Amphibian Ark.

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Report this morning from San Diego’s CW6 News, reporter Elsa Sevilla. See video on TV station’s Web site here.

A fungus in amphibians is killing thousands of animals around the world.

The statistics are alarming. Twenty-five of the world’s top scientists, experts and amphibian veterinarians gathered at the San Diego Zoo to discuss solutions to the problem. It’s all part of a three-day conference at the Zoo which ended Wednesday.

“Populations worldwide have declined because of this disease, Chytrid Fungus,” says Doctor Allan Pessier, a scientist at the San Diego Zoo.

Scientists say the deadly disease is not only killing amphibians, but thousands of species are becoming extinct, too. The fungus attacks the amphibian’s skin. In frogs, it can be deadly because frogs use their bodies to drink water. The disease can be transfered to other amphibians as the fungus survives in spores that live in the water. Both amphibians in captivity and those in the wild are known to be infected. The amphibians at the San Diego Zoo have been tested for the fungus and they tested negative.

“You go to a place that was healthy six months ago and is now covered with dead frogs all over the ground and the populations never recovers,” says Doctor Joseph Mendelson from the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia.

Mendelson conducts research at the Atlanta Zoo, but also travels around the world to see first hand what has happened to hundreds of species that are now extinct because of the disease.

It is not known exactly where the disease originated, but some experts believe it may have first been detected in Africa. Currently, South and Central America, and Australia are now seeing an alarming number of amphibians die due to the fungus.

“The Experts on the issue are here at the San Diego Zoo meeting with each other, exchanging ideas, developing tests, developing strategies, ways to combat this,” says Anne Redice of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS, in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to a grant from IMLS, scientists, experts and veterinarians gathered for the three-day conference this week. They are looking for solutions to eradicate the deadly disease, but they are also looking to create a standardized method of testing in order to stop the fungus from spreading from amphibians in the wild to those who have been relocated to zoos around the country and the world.

“We are losing part of our eco-system. It will have ramifications on how the eco-system functions,” says Mendelson.

Hoping to prevent a major impact on the environment, scientists say they are literally, scrambling for answers to save thousands of species from extinction.

San Diego Zoo hosted a conference of scientists to review new, stringent standards for making sure amphibians don’t have the frog killer chytrid fungus as they come to zoos for “protective custody” against the many forces that are wiping them out in the wild. Story here.

Imagine if found that a chemical in our food weakened our resistance to malaria and, when it entered the sewers after we washed it off our dishes, it actually caused mosquitoes to double their egg laying.  We’d call it a perfect storm.

That’s essentially the same situation facing amphibians because of atrazine, as reported in a Scientific American story about Northern Leopard Frogs. According to the story, “the culprit appears to be the common herbicide acting as a double-edged sword: It suppresses the frogs’ immune systems while boosting the population of snails that play host to parasitic worm larvae, the latter of which infect the weakened leopard frogs.”

Another way to explain it, according to the Christian Science Monitor, it this:

Atrazine reduced phytoplankton in the water, making more food and light available for algae. It also appears to speed snail reproduction. The snails, often carrying larvae of parasites harmful to frogs, feed on the increased amounts of algae. Then frogs feast on the snails. In addition, the atrazine deadens the frogs’ immune systems, leaving them less capable of countering the parasites.

Nice to see Joe Mendelson of Zoo Atlanta quoted in the coverage.

 

Noticed this on Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Web site: Ron Gagliardo, its top amphibian expert, just got a new species named in his honor. Very cool. Here’s what the Web site says:

New frog species named Pristimantis gagliardoi
Amphibian Conservation Coordinator Ron Gagliardo has been honored because a newly discovered frog species has been named for him. During  herpetological studies of a previously unsurveyed region in the high Andies of southern Ecuador near Cuenca, this distinctive new species of rain frog was discovered by a field team including Joe Mendelson (Zoo Atlanta), Martin Bustamante (Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Ecuador), Michell Cummer (Utah State).

A year later, this NPR radio report from Feb. 17, 2007, is still solid and a great, 5-minute  primer on the chytrid crisis that is wreaking havoc on frogs and hundreds of amphibian species — and what Amphibian Ark is doing about it. And, you can hear Joe Mendelson of Zoo Atlanta properly pronounce caecilians (SAY-silly-uns). 

A killer fungus is wiping out frog species across the globe, making some scientists worry about a mass amphibian extinction. One group’s plan is to keep frogs locked away until the world outside is safe again. Debbie Elliott talks with Dr. Joe Mendelson, an organizer of the project named ‘Amphibian Ark.’

mendelson-gagliardo.jpggreat report on Amphibian Ark, this time in audio, on NPR, from last February.  Joe Mendelson of the Atlanta Zoo makes it easy to understand this problem, and why “frogs matter.” (“Great report” is a hot link to the audio, by the way.) And see the photo to the left? That’s Joe Mendelson on the left, with Ron Gagliardo. They’re the guys in the YouTube video I posted earlier.