Hopping around the world to save frogs

A
frog hunt like no other is about to begin, as conservationists scour the world
for species thought to be extinct but which may just be hanging on.

Over
the next two months, missions will begin in 14 countries searching for species
such as the golden toad, the hula painted frog and the scarlet frog.

Amphibians
are the most threatened animals on the planet, with one third of species at
risk of extinction.

Many
have been eliminated by a fungal disease carried in water.

The
scientist leading the project, Robin Moore, said he believes some of the 100
amphibians targeted in the survey will turn up.

“A
couple of years ago when I was in Ecuador with a team of local scientists, we
went in search of a species that hadn’t been seen in 12 years,” he said.

“We
weren’t very hopeful that we’d find it, but after a day of searching we
uncovered a rock and found one of these little green frogs.

“Similar
stories have started popping up of people finding frogs that we thought had gone;
so it gives me hope that there are a lot out there that we think may have disappeared
but may actually still be alive.”

Dr
Moore, of Conservation International (CI), is organising the search for the
Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) of the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The
biggest issue for amphibians globally is loss of their habitat, as forests are
cleared and wetlands drained.

But
this survey will target many species that have fallen prey to a newer and
starker threat – the fungal disease chytridiomycosis.

There
is currently no way of preventing infection in the wild, or of preventing its
spread across the world.

Although
some species are immune, the chytrid fungus wipes others away suddenly. The
iconic golden toad of Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes) went from abundant to
extinct in little more than a year.

The
results of the search missions should be known before October’s meeting of the
UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan, at which governments will
review the reasons why they have failed to implement their 2002 pledge to
reduce the loss of nature significantly by 2010.

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