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

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Twin Chicago Traffickers-Turned-Informants Sentenced

Pedro and Margarito Flores get 14-year terms in exchange for cooperating in a case against Mexican drug cartel leaders
More

Chile's Bachelet Prepares Next Phase of Education Reform

After eight months of intense debate, Lower House approves first part of multi-pronged reform, which includes end to profits at state-subsidized schools
More

Fidel Castro Appears to Lend Support to Cuba Talks with US

Castro said his long-standing hostility to the US did not mean 'rejection of a peaceful solution'
More

Argentine President Plans to Dissolve Spy Agency

Suspicions abound that rogue agents were behind the mysterious death of a state prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center
More

Peru's Congress Repeals Labor Reform Law

Move comes after thousands took to the streets to protest legislation that cut benefits for young workers, part of reforms aimed at reviving the economy
More

Miss Colombia Takes Miss Universe Crown

Paulina Vega is the first contestant from Colombia to win since 1958
More