Amphibians in Crisis
We are in the midst of the largest vertebrate animal extinction crisis since the time of the dinosaurs. Biologists estimate that 50% of the world’s amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians) are already threatened with extinction. Causes include pollution, habitat destruction, disease and global climate change. Soon we may find ourselves in a world absent of tadpoles and the evening sounds of frogs and toads unless the conservation community draws together quickly. One specialist has called this crisis ‘the greatest conservation challenge humanity has ever faced.’
In an all out effort to halt these looming extinctions, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are leading the charge for zoo professionals from around the world to come together to share information, to develop captive breeding and protection programs, and to create education programs that help environmentally-conscious people learn how to protect amphibians from this extinction threat.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has joined this international effort to respond to this crisis by opening the Save The Frogs! Amphibian Conservation Center. Rather than a typical animal exhibit, Save The Frogs! is a lab environment where visitors can see directly what we are doing to assist the worlds ailing amphibian populations.
Isolated labs are dedicated to geographical regions or individual species, and are individually heated and cooled to the proper environmental conditions. A southeastern U.S. room houses Striped Newts and a local Waterdog species, two interesting salamander species. To learn to understand the local Waterdog species is to hopefully be able to help the highly endangered Alabama Waterdog.
Another room is dedicated solely to the Puerto Rican Crested Toad. As crested toad eggs hatch, the tadpoles will be immediately shipped to Puerto Rico for release into ponds. At breeding time, adult toads normally return to their ‘natal ponds’, the ponds in which they developed from tadpoles. By releasing them into ponds as tadpoles, the ponds become familiar to them, and they will return to those ponds to breed as adults. If adult toads were released, they would not have that familiar natal pond to return to and breed, and would not likely reproduce.
A working lab office between these rooms has an additional half dozen species on display in order to demonstrate frog diversity.
On a special audio console, visitors can listen to the ghostly mating calls of three frogs that are now considered extinct in the wild. You can also learn how to help frogs in the wild by contributing to amphibian conservation, creating backyard habitat, and becoming a citizen scientist.
Thank you for caring. Amphibians need all of our help. Icon photo by Mark Beshel.