Habitat loss, pollution, and a frighteningly fast-moving fungus are combining to wipe out frogs, toads, and salamanders at a rate not seen since the dinosaur age.
That's why the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums—as well as regional zoo associations, such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in the USA—have joined forces to dedicate 2008 as the Year of the Frog.
From decades of leading research and education at Brookfield Zoo to galvanizing the scientific community in amphibian conservation, Dr. George Rabb—President Emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society— has long been a champion of frogs!
In 1990, Dr. Rabb made a very important contribution to amphibian conservation: as chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission, he established the Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force of volunteer scientists to investigate worldwide amphibian declines in relation to habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and disease.
In 1997, under Dr. Rabb’s leadership, chief veterinarian Tom Meehan of Brookfield Zoo helped experts to agree —through the Conservation Medicine Center of Chicago—that a previously unknown chytrid fungus was responsible for major amphibian declines.
More recently, Dr. Rabb has helped a salvage operation for the survival of a Panamanian amphibian community of 35 species, and he continues to contribute to the worldwide efforts of the Amphibian Ark.
Year of the Frog
The Year of the Frog campaign focuses on setting up conservation programs specific to the most imperiled amphibian species, and promoting public awareness of amphibians and the threats they face.
A Lot of Knowledge Goes a Long Way
Chicago Zoological Society is contributing some serious expertise to the campaign.
Dr. George Rabb, President Emeritus of the Chicago Zoological Society, convened a task force in 1990 to examine the extent of amphibian decline. Since then, Dr. Rabb (see Conservation Leader at right) and Brookfield Zoo have been striving to tell the scientific community how zoos and aquaria can help.
Chicago Zoological Society population biologist Dr. Robert Lacy is another internationally known leader who creates global links between zoos, aquaria, and the world’s conservation groups. His pioneering work in species management has lead to international conservation programs such as the Amphibian Ark.
The Amphibian Ark is a partnership of global conservation agencies dedicated to saving hundreds of amphibian species from extinction. The Ark’s mission is to rescue amphibians that cannot be safeguarded in nature from the chytrid fungus, by placing hundreds of amphibian species in breeding colonies in bio-protected facilities.
The Society is also funding the position of Dr. Kevin Zippel, the program officer for Amphibian Ark. Dr. Zippel previously served as curator of the National Amphibian Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo and as project coordinator for Project Golden Frog, a multi-institution initiative to save the Panamanian golden frog from extinction.
Hop in to Help
Want to get more of the picture on frogs? You can get involved to learn more about a wide range of amphibian species and to discover simple but essential ways you can help protect amphibians at home and around the globe.
Start by joining us for our official Year of the Frog Kickoff Celebration on Friday, February 29, at Brookfield Zoo. Go to Feathers and Scales or the Discovery Center at Brookfield Zoo to see a full display of photos and maps on the worldwide amphibians.
Check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ “Top 8 in 08—Ways to Help Frogs” List.
Find out how you can use natural pest-control methods to help out frogs in your backyard.
Become a frog watcher. Visit the National Wildlife Federation Web site to find out more about Frogwatch USA, a program that allows you to collect and report essential information related to frog and toad preservation—in as little as 20 minutes a week.
Visit the Amphibian Ark Web site for more information on the dangers that amphibian species face, and how you can help.
Did you know that after thriving for over
360 million years, 1/3 to 1/2 of the world’s approximately 6,000 known amphibian
species could go extinct in our lifetime?