- By Chris Charnock
- The Daily Telegraph
Great leap for the species … experts are trying to save frogs from extinction. Source: The Daily Telegraph
AUSTRALIAN zoos will join a worldwide fight to save the humble frog in an “Amphibian Ark” – as climate experts predict they are going the way of the dinosaurs.
Thousands of species of Australian frogs and toads are in genuine danger of extinction as a mysterious and deadly fungus threatens frog populations worldwide.
This weekend scientists from across the globe are meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
Their aim is to organise the co-ordination of a worldwide effort - dubbed the amphibian ark program - to prevent the spreading of the fungus by asking zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens to set up sanctuaries in which to house threatened frogs until a solution is found.
Chytrid fungus works like a parasite, clogging the skin pores of frogs until they die of dehydration. It is believed to have originated in South Africa from the African clawed frog, which is largely immune to it, and is now threatening 1900 species worldwide.
Of 170 species which have become extinct worldwide, eight of those have been frogs native to Australia - and all of those have disappeared in the past 50 years.
Taronga Zoo reptiles and amphibians sector unit supervisor Michael McFadden said, with only 200 species remaining in Australia, domestic zoos had begun conservation programs to protect the amphibians.
“Species in wetter climates and stream-dwelling frogs such as the spotted tree frog are particularly vulnerable,” he said.
“At Taronga we’ve been working with the Department of Wildlife and Conservation and the Amphibians Research Centre in Victoria.
“We’ve created a co-operative conservation program to breed particularly endangered species. We raise the frogs from egg stage in captivity and then release them into the wild once they’ve developed a resistance to the disease.”
Experts including Costa Rica’s Golden Toad Laboratory for Conservation head scientist J. Alan Pounds have also linked the spread of the disease to climate change.
Increased temperatures enhance cloud cover over tropical mountain regions, causing cooler days and warmer nights - which are favoured by the fungus, which grows and reproduces best at between 17C and 25C.
“Disease is the bullet that’s killing the frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger” Dr Pounds said.