From The Observer News
Did you know that 2008 has been designated the Year of the Frog by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)? I am sure you are wondering why they are highlighting the frog; the creatures that chirp day and night and at least in Florida leave sticky prints on our windows. I, personally, am happy that there is focus on these amphibians and the global extinction crisis that many species are facing. I have always been a sucker for any kind of frog or toad that happened to cross my path. The way they protect themselves from predators is definitely advanced—who wouldn’t want to ward off attackers by secreting nasty poison out of their skin? That would have helped me at the bars when I was younger. Anyway, I digress.
According to the AZA site, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) estimates that at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction. As always, the major cause seemed to be the loss of important habitat, however the losses that were previously defined as “enigmatic” are now being attributed to an infectious disease that seems to spread like wildfire through the amphibian populations. We may not notice this huge decline in amphibious species because they normally stay out of plain sight, but could you imagine losing 1/3 of our oceans’ fishes, or 1/3 of the land mammals? Would you notice then?
What is considered an amphibian? Frogs and toads, of course, but also salamanders and newts fall into this category. In the United States, there are 4 frogs that are on the Critically Endangered list—the Mississippi gopher frog, the Chiricahua leopard frog, the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the Wyoming toad. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists thirty-seven amphibian species under the Endangered Species Act. The AZA takes this mission seriously and over the years have been involved in over 100 projects to protect amphibians. If you want to help, there are a few things you can do on a smaller scale that will help out the big picture. First of all, learn more about these creatures and spread the word. Make sure your backyard is a friendly and safe habitat for amphibians by only using native vegetation and creating a “Toad Adobe”. You can do this by getting a terra-cotta pot and flipping it upside down allowing one side to rest on a little rock—and bing bang boom, you got yourself a hide-out for a toad. Since habitat destruction and climate change are a big factor in species endangerment, use less energy, don’t litter and use less resources. Using less resources and recycling things that you use will create less trash and a healthier environment. To learn more about getting educational materials or just fun facts about amphibians, visit www.aza.org/helpfrogs
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