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Year of the Frog

Jan 04, 2008

The Year of the Frog has begun! Did you know that one-third to one-half of the world’s amphibians appear headed for extinction within our lifetimes? It sounds alarming and frankly, it is. The Amphibian Ark, a worldwide coalition of amphibian experts, are calling 2008 Year of the Frog to try to make everyone aware of what’s happening. Zoos hope to join in a captive breeding program to save approximately 500 species that can’t be protected in the wild. The St. Louis Zoo is a leader in this.

A variety of things seem to be causing this serious decline, but loss of habitat is a big one, along with a newly recognized amphibian disease called chytrid fungus that’s affecting some frogs and salamanders more than others. Then there are also the contaminants, non-native species, changing climate… But making choices to conserve critical habitat and support for ongoing research to pinpoint the things we might be able to do is essential.

Several months ago I did blog on what was happening with one of Missouri amphibians, the hellbender. Their numbers are declining and the chytrid fungus appears to be an important part of the story. The majority of Missouri’s frogs, on the other hand, are holding their own at this point. Jeff Briggler, Missouri Conservation herpetologist, told me that two things are working in favor of our frogs: 1) several species here depend on forest habitat—which we have and 2) several breed in the cold water in the early spring when the chytrid fungus isn’t active. We still have some frogs in trouble, though, because habitats such as prairie and wetlands are disappearing.

Throughout this year, as Missourians join in this global conservation network, we’ll highlight different Missouri frogs andevents that you might want to attend in our small place on the planet. The photo is of a green treefrog. In Missouri, it depends on the last remaining cypress swamps, sloughs and oxbow lakes in the southeast part of the state.

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