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  PlanetArk 3 Sep 07
2008 Declared Year of Frog to Save Amphibians
Story by Jeremy Lovell

Yahoo News 23 Aug 07
Group to meet, launch frog-saving effort
By Cheryl Wittenauer, Associated Press Writer

Kermit the Frog might be recruited, along with governments, corporations, and philanthropists, to help in a worldwide effort to stem the deaths of frog populations around the world.

Next week, leaders of the world's zoos and aquariums meeting in Budapest, Hungary, will discuss the logistics of the frog-saving effort, dubbed Amphibian Ark. Members of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums will discuss who's going to take which species for safe keeping.

The plan calls for 500 frogs of 500 species to be held in biosecure facilities around the world. The frogs' temporary digs would be regulated for temperature, humidity and other living conditions.

At the Budapest meeting, zoo and aquarium leaders also will be presented with a strategy for raising global awareness of the crisis and the initial $50 million needed to avert it.

"We'll need Kermit and everybody we can get to make this the thing that people talk about," said Jeffrey Bonner, chairman of the Amphibian Ark initiative, who also heads the Saint Louis Zoo.

"Protective custody has got to happen now, or within a year or two. Otherwise, it'll be too late. Extinction is forever."

A mysterious killer fungus is wiping out frog populations around the globe, and scientists have a plan to isolate hundreds of frogs at the world's zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens until they can be released in the wild safely.

Scientists say they have to figure out a way to get the killer fungus, called chytrid fungus, out of the environment or help the frogs develop a resistance. They can be cured with a fungicide, more easily than a person can shake athlete's foot, Bonner said. But they'll be affected again upon re-entry.

Because the species are dying rapidly, scientists want to put the frogs in safe environments while they figure out long-term solutions.

The deadly fungus causes frogs to suffocate. Since the late '90s, it has spread around the world rapidly, wiping out 80 percent of frogs in its reach within 12 months. "The remainder can't find each other to reproduce," Bonner said.

Frogs consume a huge volume of insects, and they also are prey for birds.

The extinction of frog species, Bonner said, "may unbalance the ecosystem in a way that global warming could only hope to."

Amphibians also serve important biomedical purposes. Some species produce a chemical used as a pain reliever for humans; one species is linked to a chemical that inhibits the virus that causes AIDS.

St. Louis-based Fleishman-Hillard, an international marketing firm, developed Amphibian Ark's communications and fundraising plan.

It will be kicked off with worldwide events on New Year's Eve, leading into 2008, which has been declared the Year of the Frog. Feb. 29, or Leap Day, will be International Frog Day. Major corporate sponsors are being courted now.

On the Net: Amphibian Ark: http://www.amphibianark.org

PlanetArk 3 Sep 07
2008 Declared Year of Frog to Save Amphibians
Story by Jeremy Lovell

UK: September 3, 2007 LONDON - Conservationists from around the world have declared 2008 the Year of the Frog to highlight their new campaign to save threatened amphibians from extinction.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) said on Friday that up to half of amphibian species could be wiped out in coming years through habitat loss and climate change -- the biggest mass extinction since dinosaurs disappeared.

"It's imperative that the world zoo and aquarium community plays an active role in working to save the planet's critically endangered amphibian species," said WAZA president Karen Sausman following the decision at a meeting in Budapest.

As part of the campaign, which needs to raise up to US$60 million in funding, WAZA also set up a petition calling on all governments to take action to beat the amphibian crisis and agreed to an Amphibian Ark captive breeding programme.

"It's both our obligation and our privilege to help these glorious animals. We invite all people around the world to help amphibians survive by signing our global petition and contributing to fund this initiative," Sausman added.

The programme will bring priority amphibian species into dedicated facilities at zoos, aquariums, and other institutions around the world for safekeeping and breeding.

The creatures will be released back into the wild when the original threats have been controlled.

WAZA, founded in 1946, is the umbrella organisation for 237 major zoos and aquariums as well as 24 regional or national federations representing a further 1,100 zoos and aquariums.

IUCN, the World Conservation Union, which is taking part in the Amphibian Ark programme, said 1,856 of the 5,743 known amphibian species were threatened with extinction.

WAZA, which hopes its petition will be signed by the millions of people who visit zoos and aquariums each year, appointed world renowned British naturalist David Attenborough as patron of the Year of the Frog.

"Without an immediate and sustained conservation effort to support captive management, hundreds of species of these wonderful creatures could become extinct in our own lifetime," he said. "But implementation calls for financial and political support from all parts of the world."

Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity
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