Did You Know...
It is estimated that at least one-third of the world's known amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
Never in documented history has an entire class of species faced such rapid extinction as in the global amphibian crisis occurring today. In fact, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) estimates that at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
While habitat loss, climate change and pollution all contribute to the threat, researchers have found that a fungal disease known as Chytridiomycosis (chytrid) is proving exceptionally deadly and is believed to be the major cause of amphibian species’ decline. Experts agree that the only way to prevent the most threatened of these species from becoming extinct is to breed them in captivity, until the chytrid epidemic either runs its course, or methods can be found to eradicate it.
We joined with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions to combat this unprecedented crisis at the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) and at the Summit Park Amphibian Rescue Center in Panama.
Spearheaded by the Houston Zoo, the EVACC and the Summit Park is supported by a number of AZA zoos and aquariums, academic institutions, and international conservation organizations and part of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. The project focuses on the research, captive management, and exhibition of Panama’s endangered and threatened amphibians. A major goal is to ensure that these local endangered populations continue to be managed by the people of Panama well into the future.
The project's staff had to go out each day to capture hundreds of insects each day in order to feed the frogs. This became very time consuming, and would not have been practical as the number of rescued and bred frogs grew. What the two breeding Centers needed was the facilities and expertise to rear their own supply of native invertebrates, creating a constant food supply. That’s where we came into the project.
With $3,000 in funding from the Zoo, and leadership from Lou Perrotti, our Director of Conservation Programs, the EVACC Center built an invertebrate rearing facility in 2007, and Lou established rearing colonies of some of the area’s native insects. He then taught husbandry techniques to Center staff to maintain the project when he returned to the States.
Lou has returned to Panama each year since, improving and expanding the insect husbandry facility to the Summit Park. This year we also began funding a staff person dedicated to the insect breeding program year-round so that the EVAAC staff can focus on the frog conservation project. To date, over 1000 frogs of 50 different species reside at both EVACC and the Summit Park, and the insect supply is steadily growing to meet the demand. We will continue to support this project with funding and annual visits to assure the insect supply remains nutritious and plentiful. We expect that the benefit of our efforts will broaden as similar frog conservation projects around the world begin to utilize this invertebrate husbandry protocol.
For more information:
Louis Perrotti, Director of Conservation Programs
(401) 785-3510 x335