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Amphibian Crisis, Amphibian Ark and the 2008 Year of the Frog Campaign

Posted by Miqe on November 1, 2007

Amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace never seen before. For the first time, scientists have gathered enough evidence to assert that humanity might be facing one of the biggest extinction crises of recent times. Species, genera, and even families are vanishing at alarming rates. In 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment conducted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) revealed that one-third to one-half of the world’s 6,000 amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction and over 120 have already disappeared.

It is widely believed in the scientific community that many more species may go extinct before we are able to act and the current generation will be held responsible for this loss by future generations, if no immediate action is taken. It is of utmost importance to raise awareness among national governments, world media, school educators, corporations, philanthropists, and the general public about the fragility of amphibians and the enormous responsibility that each of us has for trying to rescue the highest number of species from extinction.

The Causes
Amphibians are severely affected by habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticides, introduced species, and over-collection for food and pets. While habitat destruction is the major causal threat, the most immediate cause is a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a disease that is deadly to hundreds of amphibian species and has slowly spread from Africa across the planet over the past 30-40 years. Global climate change may have exacerbated the problem. The amphibian chytrid was discovered a decade ago and since then dozens of frog species have gone extinct because of it. Since the 1930s, African clawed frogs (likely resistant carriers of the fungus) have been shipped around the world by the thousands for human pregnancy tests and lab studies, spreading the disease worldwide. Recently, the food and pet trade may have contributed to the problem as well. Amphibian chytrid fungus is unstoppable and untreatable in the wild, even in protected areas. In the environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill 80 percent of the amphibians within months, leading to widespread amphibian extinctions. The amphibian chytrid’s spread and effects may be compounded by climate change, as warmer temperatures dry the moist areas where amphibians thrive and cause stress that may lead to greater susceptibility to disease.

Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP)
During the 2005 Amphibian Conservation Summit convened by the IUCN and Conservation International (CI), the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP) was conceived and drafted. The ACAP includes four primary components: research, assessment, long-term programs (including conservation programs, protection of key sites for amphibian survival, reintroductions, and control of harvesting), and short term programs that represent an emergency response to the amphibian crisis (including saving sites about to be lost, rapid response teams, captive survival assurance programs, and saving harvested species about to disappear).

While the ACAP’s greatest conservation priority is in situ (on site) action, some threats like chytrid fungus cannot be addressed in the wild. The 2005 IUCN ACAP white papers state that ‘survival assurance colonies are mandatory for amphibian species that will not persist in the wild long enough to recover naturally once environments are restored; these species need to be saved now through ex-situ measures so that more complete restoration of ecosystems is possible in the future.’ The IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) specifically tasked the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) with implementation of the ex-situ (off-site) aspects of ACAP’s goals.

Amphibian Ark and 2008 Year of the Frog
The global conservation community has come forward with a response to this crisis in the form of the Amphibian Ark. The Amphibian Ark is an initiative started by a group of concerned conservation organizations — CBSG, ASG, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) — to support ex-situ actions around the world whereby select species will be maintained in captivity until they can be secured in the wild. The scientific community has come to realize that captive management is a vital component of an integrated conservation effort to mitigate the effects of the current crisis and prevent it from becoming worse.

The Amphibian Ark is rapidly developing capacity to coordinate ex-situ programs implemented by partners around the world, with emphasis on programs within the range countries of each species, and constant attention to couple ex-situ conservation measures with efforts to protect or restore species in their natural habitats.

Members of the Amphibian Ark are WAZA members and WAZA affiliates members of regional or national zoo associations, ISIS, Amphibian Ark-approved private partners, museums, universities, and wildlife agencies. An Amphibian Ark Steering Committee with Executive Co-Chairs from each of the three principal partners provides strategic guidance and ensures excellent communication with all stakeholders. Advisory Committees are being formed to consult on species-specific issues, for example, reintroduction, gene banking, and veterinary, legal, and ethical concerns. Four officers coordinate all aspects of implementation within the Amphibian Ark initiative, assisting partners in identifying priority taxa and regions for ex-situ conservation work; leading development and implementation of training programs for building capacity of individuals and institutions; and developing communications strategies, messages, and materials to promote understanding and action on behalf of amphibian conservation.

 

Captive Management and the Role of Zoos
Fortunately, a thriving industry already exists that specializes in captive management of animals, making it uniquely capable of addressing this need. Zoos and related facilities worldwide include over 1,200 institutions, with 100,000 employees and 600 million visitors per year, equivalent to one in every 10 people in the world. Zoos can assist with initiatives such as rapid response rescues, captive assurance colonies, providing animals for release and research, conservation education, capacity building, fundraising, and help to develop recovery plans.

The ex-situ conservation community faces many challenges to meet these expectations; first and foremost is the need for rapidly increasing capacity. It is estimated that the global zoo community can currently manage viable populations of approximately 50 amphibian species, amounting to perhaps 10 percent of those requiring ex-situ intervention. An appropriate response from zoos would include construction of additional biosecure facilities wherever they are needed, training keepers, and ensuring that resources are appropriately allocated to support these requisite actions. Of course, some zoos are already making valuable contributions to amphibian conservation by, among other things, constructing dedicated facilities on grounds and helping develop facilities in other regions of the world. Zoos are also leading dozens of amphibian conservation programs, including habitat restoration, translocations, conservation education, research, and region-wide amphibian community rescues.

2008 Year of the Frog
Zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens will play a crucial role as part of the immediate response by providing the ex-situ breeding grounds for some threatened species. The global zoo and aquarium community has taken on this challenge, but implementation calls for financial and political support from all corners of the world. Zoos and aquariums, as committed advocates of conservation, are in the forefront of a worldwide effort and face the challenge of generating attention that translates into resources and good will toward amphibian safekeeping.

Consequently, the Amphibian Ark has launched a global campaign under the name of ‘2008 Year of the Frog,’ with the view to support global and regional initiatives intended to save amphibians. Individual and collective support for this campaign will help develop the capacity to coordinate ex-situ programs implemented by partner organizations around the world. The main goal of this campaign is to generate public awareness and understanding of the amphibian extinction crisis and ensure sustainability of the survival assurance populations by creating funding for this conservation work that will extend beyond 2008. The money raised from this global campaign will also help fund global Amphibian Ark coordination activities and regional initiatives such as rescue workshops, cooperatively managed centers and coordination of activities within each region.

Conclusion
Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. Without immediate captive management as a stopgap component of an integrated conservation effort, hundreds of species could become extinct. The outcome of Amphibian Ark will be that we will have saved hundreds of species from extinction, developed capacity both within our institutions and globally to continue to provide amphibian species with care and protection when needed, formed a true partnership between ex-situ and in-situ components of conservation, established a model framework for responding to future species conservation crises, and demonstrated to the world that zoos and aquariums are essential conservation organizations. In the absence of an immediate and sustained conservation effort of this kind in support of captive management, hundreds of species could become extinct in our lifetime.

From Wildlife extra

6 Responses to “Amphibian Crisis, Amphibian Ark and the 2008 Year of the Frog Campaign”

  1. […] Present amphibians in danger: here. […]

  2. Great news on the Amphibian Ark front: The association of biology teachers is lining up with Amphibian Ark to take on the fight to save hundreds of endangered species of frogs and other amphibians. Jeff Corwin’s video thanking them, and a link to the news release, are posted on my frog blog:
    http://frogmatters.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/jeff-corwin-video-thanks-biology-teachers-for-hopping-on-board/
    This is really important. Consider the sheer, numerical power of the partnership:
    •There are 6,000 biology teachers that are in the association…
    •And let’s say each of them has 100 students…
    •And each of those students has a sibling, and 1.5 parents, and 2 grandparents, and 2 close friends — and tells them all about the crisis
    •That’s 6,000 teachers, 600,000 students, another 600,000 sisters and brothers, 900,000 parents, 1.2 million grandparents, and another 1.2 million friends — all informed, spreading the word, demanding and taking action

    Like a frog jumping into a pond, the ripple effect of biology teachers rallying behind Amphibian Ark can be transformational for this cause. So I salute the teachers, and Jeff Corwin for doing all he can to raise awareness. You’re making a huge difference.

  3. Miqe said

    I really like Mr. Corwin, as he have the ability to do shows that also contain some humor. It is good that someone like him is “onboard”, hopefully it will do some good.

  4. Miqe said

    Some more in this matter:

    The Clorox Company (NYSE: CLX) has signed on as the first official corporate sponsor of Amphibian Ark’s “2008 Year of the Frog,” a campaign to raise public awareness and funds to help avert the pending amphibian extinction crisis. “2008 Year of the Frog” is a globally coordinated campaign — led by the non-profit coalition Amphibian Ark — to engage zoos, aquariums, corporate partners, governments, and the public in an effort to rescue endangered amphibian species that cannot be saved in the wild.

    As many as 165 amphibian species may be extinct, with an additional one-third to one-half of the world’s 6,000 amphibian species in danger of becoming extinct in our lifetime. While habitat destruction is a serious threat, the most immediate cause of amphibian decline is a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a disease that is deadly to hundreds of species and has quickly spread from Africa across the rest of the planet. Chytrid fungus is currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild, where it can kill 80 percent of native amphibians within months.

    As part of its sponsorship, The Clorox Company will donate Clorox® Regular-Bleach to aid in the halt of the spread of chytrid fungus. Clorox® Regular-Bleach, an EPA-registered fungicide, is one of the most important tools in Amphibian Ark’s fight to save the frogs.* Frogs are treated with anti-fungal medicine and anything else that has contact with water during amphibian rescue is treated with a bleach solution, from boots and clothing to instruments and transport containers, to be sure researchers are not spreading fungus to new, uncontaminated areas. When zoos and aquariums bring frogs that cannot be saved in the wild into protective custody, their enclosures are treated with a bleach solution daily for the first weeks to be sure they remain fungus-free.

    “We are grateful to Clorox for signing on as the first official sponsor of ‘2008 Year of the Frog and hope their commitment will encourage others to join this important global conservation mission,'” said Amphibian Ark Program Officer, Kevin Zippel. “Clorox’s support, along with the donation of bleach for use in our efforts, will make a real impact for the cause.”

    Since it was introduced in 1913, Clorox® Regular-Bleach has a long history of use in places where killing pathogens is critical — in hospitals, nursing homes, child-care centers and schools.

    “When we heard about Amphibian Ark’s campaign and learned that bleach played a critical role in its efforts, we wanted to help,” stated Mary O’Connell, public relations director at The Clorox Company. “Amphibian Ark really is creating an ark in what’s become a race to save frogs and other amphibians not from decline — but from extinction. How could we not help?”

    Conservation biologists refer to amphibians as “the canaries in the coal mine” — they are among the first species to be affected by environmental stressors, so when they show declines in the wild, it serves as a warning to other species, including humans. Amphibians — frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians — are vital members of a delicate ecosystem as well as important environmental indicators and contributors to human health and wellness.

    For information on how you can help or donate, go to http://www.savethefrog.com.

    About Amphibian Ark

    Amphibian Ark was founded by the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) to carry out the emergency response component of the Amphibian Crisis Action Plan (ACAP), an overall plan to address the amphibian crisis that includes research, assessment, long-term conservation programs, and short-term emergency responses. Amphibian Ark will develop, promote, and guide short-term captive management of the most threatened amphibians that cannot be saved in the wild, buying valuable time to mitigate threats for species that would otherwise go extinct. Amphibian Ark supports the rescue of priority species and brings them into “protective custody” in dedicated biosecure facilities at zoos, aquariums, and other institutions around the world for safekeeping, breeding, and eventual release back into the wild when the original threats have been controlled. The Amphibian Ark plan requires $60 million in funding. Donations can be made to the Global Conservation Network, an IRS 501(c)3 that is part of the CBSG.

    About The Clorox Company

    The Clorox Company is a leading manufacturer and marketer of consumer products with fiscal year 2007 revenues of $4.8 billion. Clorox markets some of consumers’ most trusted and recognized brand names, including its namesake bleach and cleaning products, Armor All® and STP® auto-care products, Fresh Step® and Scoop Away® cat litter, Kingsford® charcoal, Hidden Valley® and K C Masterpiece® dressings and sauces, Brita® water-filtration systems, and Glad® bags, wraps and containers. With 7,800 employees worldwide, the company manufactures products in more than two dozen countries and markets them in more than 100 countries. Clorox is committed to making a positive difference in the communities where its employees work and live. Founded in 1980, The Clorox Company Foundation has awarded cash grants totaling more than $69.7 million to nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges. In fiscal 2007 alone, the foundation awarded $3.4 million in cash grants, and Cloroxmade product donations valued at $5.9 million. For more information about Clorox, visit http://www.TheCloroxCompany.com.

    *Organizations, including U.S. Geological Survey, recommend using a 1:10% solution of bleach to disinfect equipment that comes in contact with chytrid fungus.

    From http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/articles/marketwire/0339405.htm

  5. Miqe said

    Also see here: http://www.savethefrog.com/

  6. Jan Sherman said

    I am thrilled about this campaign! I believe that the only way we will make any comparable change in our world is to support folk in recognizing the importance of every being that shares the earth with us. We must deconstruct the hierarchy that has been created which makes so many human beings believe that they are more important that the animals, trees, water, etc.

    I offer an Aboriginal-based children’s camp every summer and this compaign will definitely be included in our Sharing Circles this year! Are their any programs being developed for children to participate in within this campaign?

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