Across the globe, amphibians are in crisis. Close to one half of all amphibian species – 3,000 out of 6,000 – are threatened with extinction. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to inspire its visitors to care about the frogs, salamanders, caecilians, and all amphibians in need.
WCS scientists are working around the world to protect endangered amphibians and their habitats. Here at home at its New York-based facilities, we are part of the Amphibian Ark, a network of accredited zoo-based breeding programs for select amphibians. The hope is that someday these species can be reintroduced to their native habitats. WCS works through partnerships on many levels. Tanzanian scientists recently visited the Bronx Zoo to learn how to replicate successful captive care and breeding programs for the Kihansi spray toad, a species native to their country.
Sadly, habitat loss through development, road building, and resource mining are wiping out environments critical to amphibian species survival. Other threats include the lethal chytrid fungus which attacks amphibian skin, resulting in dehydration and certain death; while factors in population decline are pollution, global warming, food use, introduced species, and the pet trade.
“If we don’t act quickly, we could lose up to half of all amphibians in our lifetime,” said Dr. Jennifer Pramuk, WCS curator of Herpetology at the Bronx Zoo. “Our new exhibit highlights what WCS is doing to help save amphibians as well as the simple things visitors can do to help them from disappearing. The good news is that it’s not too late to make a difference and help our amphibious friends.”
Why are amphibians important? Frogs, salamanders and caecilians contribute to the quality of life on Earth. They are also indicators of the health of the environment and amphibians have been beneficial in medical science.
But there is hope and the Amazing Amphibians exhibit provides simple everyday ways of protecting one of the Earth’s jewels. They include:
• Use fewer toxic chemicals by lessening household products like herbicides, pesticides, and cleansers that release toxins into the environment.
• Get involved in your community to address needs of wildlife and protect their wild places.
• Be responsible about pets – purchase only from a reputable breeder who never takes any animals out of its native habitat.
• Support your local zoo and aquarium so that they can continue to work to save amphibians and their wild places.
See more amazing amphibians at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles, Congo Gorilla Forest, JungleWorld, and Children’s Zoo. And, be sure to visit WCS’s other facilities at the New York Aquarium, Central Park, Queens and Prospect Park Zoos. All are open 365 days a year to learn about wildlife and their habitats. Visit www.wcs.org for more information about the amphibian crisis.