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! 
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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 –

What Jennifer Holland has reported in National Geographic is one of the best summaries of the amphibian crisis I have read. The photos are beautiful, the anecdotes fresh and unforgettable. You need to read it. Click HERE.

Nice to see this effort from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums:

Zoos and aquariums across the country will hold events and activities to raise awareness about amphibian conservation. Scheduled events include live encounters with amphibians, informative amphibian exhibits, programs on “frog friendly” backyards, zookeeper talks about amphibian ecosystems, crafts, contests, games, prizes, and all kinds of family fun.

AZA
AZA

It is estimated that at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, with their demonstrated expertise in endangered species breeding programs and commitment to conservation, are meeting this challenge. Learn more at http://www.aza.org/ConScience/spring-forward/.

WHAT: Spring Forward for Amphibians!

WHEN: The switch to Daylight Savings time on or before March 8th.

WHERE: At an AZA-accredited zoo or aquarium near you http://www.aza.org/FindZooAquarium/.

CONTACT: Courtney Jordan, AZA, 301-562-0777, ext. 235

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a nonprofit 501c(3) organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. Look for the AZA logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting an institution dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. With its more than 200 accredited members, the AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, and your link to helping animals in their native habitats. For more information, please visit www.aza.org.

From the people who brought you “Silence of the Bees”: PBS NATURE will croak about amphibian crisis in April: http://tinyurl.com/aejzkb
Here’s the news release about the April 5 special:

There is an environmental crisis unfolding in our own backyard and around the globe. As the celebration of Earth Day draws near, NATURE takes an in-depth look at the greatest mass extinction of amphibians since the dinosaurs. Frogs have been on this planet for more than 250 million years; now scientists are struggling to keep them alive. NATURE “Frogs: The Thin Green Line” airs Sunday, April 5, 2009, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS.
Researchers have found evidence that one of the major reasons for the loss of one-third of our amphibians today stems from a fungus called chytrid. Unfortunately, the experts don’t know where it started and don’t know how to stop it. What they do know is that it grows in high altitudes, needs water and requires a host to spread. The hosts are the many beautiful species of amphibians the disease destroys.
“Once again, we’re fortunate to be working with Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Allison Argo,” says Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. “Allison is able to craft a powerful story with remarkable footage capturing the intimate details of both life and death of these creatures.”
Frogs sit right in the middle of the food chain, causing a tremendous change in the ecosystem affecting fish, water quality, snakes and birds. Because of chytrid, other creatures are disappearing. In Central Panama, biologists have evacuated frogs from the forest in order to save their lives. Today, their facility shelters 58 species of frogs — some of the rarest on earth.
Where once there were the calls of frogs, there is now silence, and this silence is traveling through Central America and South America. Yet two hours south of the Panama Canal, there is a small patch of forest called Burbayar, where frogs live as they have for millions of years. Scientists in Panama are hoping this disease hasn’t yet reached this isolated forest. The Burbayar seems to be healthy, with thriving frogs and insects. The question is, for how long?
NATURE has won nearly 450 honors from the television industry, parent groups, the international wildlife film community and environmental organizations, including 10 Emmys, three Peabodys and the first award given to a television program by the Sierra Club. Most recently, the series won a Peabody Award for “Silence of the Bees.”

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.