Help frogs leap this Leap Year

I heard an interview on CBC radio this morning with a fellow who was explaining that 20-50% of the species of frogs in the world are threatened and 120 species have become extinct in recent years. International conservation organizations are taking advantage of the leap in “leap year” to publicize the plight of the frogs and have declared 2008 to be the Year of the Frog. Frog are threatened by habitat destruction, air and water pollution – aren’t they lucky that they live in both environments and so are threatened by both – and an epidemic caused by a fungus. I have so many memories of listening for frogs when camping, looking for them in the ditches near home and wishing I had the courage to touch one. I never did. I still want to and, most of all, I want Reid to have the same experiences listening and searching for frogs. She is much braver than I. I am quite sure she wouldn’t hesitate to reach out and touch one. (I hope that human touching doesn’t exacerbate the trouble frogs are in already.)

The global conservation community has responded with an action plan, including the creation of the Amphibian Ark, “in which select species that would otherwise go extinct will be maintained in captivity until they can be secured in the wild. Without immediate captive management as a stopgap component of an integrated conservation effort, hundreds of species could become extinct.”

 The Amphibian Ark offers 10 reasons to become involved. Here are the 3 that meant the most to me:

  • Amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace faster that anything we have experienced.
  • Amphibians are indicators of environmental health, important components of ecosystems.
  • Amphibians are contributors to human health they provide vital biomedicines, including compounds that are being refined for analgesics and antibiotics.

Julie Séguin, director of conservation at the Granby Zoo near Montreal, offered another reason in an interview, “If you want one less mosquito at your summer picnic, frogs are important because their diet of insects is just one way they help humans.”

 A few of the other reasons offered by the Amphibian Ark are specific to zoos and aquariums because they are a target of the campaign, as well as the general public. Sometimes zoos and aquariums are criticized by people who are opposed to holding animals in captivity but the Amphibian Ark argues that amphibians are suitable for captive breeding programs and if every zoo in the world rescues one species, the goal can be achieved. That’s a powerful argument for supporting a zoo or aquarium with a visit this year, I think.

 Happy Leap Year, everyone! Visit the Amphibian Ark and make a donation or visit a zoo or aquarium this year.

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