News / Americas

Conservationists Trying to Save, Reproduce Endangered Frogs

Zulima Palacio

Forty percent of all the frogs in the world are in danger of extinction, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Pollution, pesticides, climate change and now a fungus are taking a toll on this diverse group of amphibians. Until recently, the central rain forest of Panama was rich in frog species. Smithsonian conservationist Brian Gratwicke is directing a campaign to save and reproduce in captivity some of the world's most endangered frogs.

Sierra Llorona is a tropical rainforest in Central Panama. It's rich in all sorts of flora and fauna, especially frogs.  

That's what Brian Gratwicke and his team are looking for. He works for the Smithsonian Institution and heads the Amphibian Rescue Project in Panama.

"Frogs are disappearing all over the world," said Gratwicke.  "About 40 percent of all of the species that we have sufficient data for, and determined their conservation status, are in danger of extinction."

The group follows the creek for a few hours in search of wild frogs.  Jorge Alberto Gonzalez, their guide, is trained in capturing even the tiniest frogs in the jungle.

But it's getting difficult to find them.  Scientists estimate that 120 species of frogs have vanished over the past 20 years. Most were wiped out by a disease known as Chytrid fungus.

Gratwicke takes a cotton swab and wipes this frog's feet and stomach to collect samples for analysis.  He's looking for signs of the fungus that in recent years has killed nearly 80 percent of the mountain frogs in Central America and is now spreading to warmer, lower regions.  

"What we are trying to do with the Panama Amphibian Rescue Project is to go out into western Panama, before the disease hits, and collect as many frogs as we can of the species that we think would go extinct, and once we get the frogs into captivity we'll try to breed them," Gratwicke explained.

Gratwicke is also a skilled photographer.  He photographs every frog he captures for an amphibian project on the web.

Now, in a park near Panama City, the Smithsonian team has established temporary facilities for the captured frogs.  Inside shipping containers, about 200 frogs are kept healthy in the lead up to breeding them.  

"Here we have a La Loma tree frog," Gratwicke said.  "It's a beautiful green tree frog that has a slight orange eye stripe and is very sensitive to Chytridia Micosis.  It ranges from Costa Rica all the way to Colombia."

Gratwicke says the fungus can only be treated in captivity.  This harlequin frog is native only to Central Panama.

"By the time we started our project, Chytridium had already hit Panama and it wiped out a lot of these frogs," Gratwicke recalled.  "So these ones are very rare now in the wild, their population crashed. This is a very rare frog on the brink of extinction."

Keeping frogs healthy in captivity is not easy.  The challenge is to produce food that has not been contaminated by the fungus.  They also produce cockroaches and worms. In a separate location is a frog's favorite meal: fruit flies in almost all sizes.

"If you see in this coconut fiber this tiny little white specks crawling around, those are the springtails," noted Gratwicke.  "It's the smallest food we can cultivate and that's what the baby frogs eat."  

Back in Washington DC, at the National Zoo, some Panamanian golden frogs are being kept alive.

"This particular species, Panama's national animal, is highly endangered.  We think they are probably extinct in the wild. So these are probably some of the last animals of the species left in the world," Gratwicke said.

Today more than 2,000 Panamanian golden frogs have been reproduced in captivity across the US.   

Why are frogs so important?  Gratwicke says frogs are in the middle of the food chain: they eat insects and they are food for many larger animals.

For humans, scientists believe frog skin contains chemicals that can lead to medical breakthroughs.   

So far, the campaign to rescue frogs has established safety for four species in Panama.  The team hopes to find a cure for the deadly fungus and one day release the healthy frogs back into the rain forest.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Haiti’s First Family Under Corruption Probe Cloud

President Michel Martelly's son and wife are accused of abuse of authority, money laundering and squandering public funds
More

Video Washington Week: Focus on Cuba, North Korea

President Obama, lawmakers out of town for holidays but many remain transfixed with US-Cuba thaw, Sony Pictures hack
More

Health Minister Named as Haiti's New Interim Prime Minister

Announcement is part of effort to resolve a mounting political crisis over long-delayed elections
More

Kerry: US-Cuba Thaw Will Advance Interests for Both

Secretary of state says 11 million people of Cuba have waited far too long - more than half a century - to 'fulfill their democratic aspirations' and build closer ties with rest of world
More

Cuba's Famed Cigars Get a Foot in Door of US Market

Under new rules to be implemented soon, US will make it easier for some Americans to travel to Cuba and they will be able to return with $100 worth of alcohol, tobacco
More

Tourism, Farm Groups See Bigger Business With Cuba

'We are the closest major food producer that Cuba has,' an American Farm Bureau Federation spokesman notes
More