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Monday, December 7, 2015

An Inadequate Response


Well, the truth can get ugly when you corner it... and this editorial has the ring of truth to it.  That's because the criticism doesn't come from some armchair philosopher, but from respected scientists, some of them involved in the zoo and aquarium community.  For all of our talk about elephants and rhinos and tigers and gorillas, the fact is that amphibians remain the most endangered class of vertebrates on earth, and the group that could most clearly benefit from the intervention of zoos and aquariums.  And there has been a response... it's just not nearly what everyone was hoping for.

The Dendrobatid breeding room at the Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersey Island (UK). Photo by Matt Goetz.

The Dendrobatid breeding room at the Durrell Wildlife Park on Jersey Island (UK). Photo by Matt Goetz.


Our much vaunted Amphibian Ark, to be true, has only a few passengers.  Go to almost any zoo and visit the amphibian collection and you'll see the same handful of species - a few species of dart frogs, hellbenders, and that poster child of amphibian conservation, the Panamanian golden frog.  There are many, many more species which need our support, however.  What's frustrating is how easy it would be for more zoos to step up and get involved.  Frogs and salamanders don't need a lot of space, and in ideal conditions produce tons of offspring.  It's easy to imagine a single trailer holding most of the population of a species (if not the species itself).  What it does require is a break from the notion that most of our efforts have to go to big mammals.

"Inadequate" is a tough adjective, but it's a fair one... but its implications bare consideration also.  I don't see it as a dismissal, I see it as a call to attention, an attempt to rally focus, a plea, and above all, a challenge -

"Is this the best that you can do?"



Amphibians have experienced massive declines worldwide, and scientists estimate that as many as 200 frog species have been lost in just the last two decades. A recent study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, analyzes how captive amphibian collections, held by a global network of zoos, have changed over the past 20 years in response to declines in the wild. With only 6.2% of globally threatened amphibians currently represented in worldwide collections, researchers are calling on zoos to step up conservation efforts to stem the tide of amphibian extinctions.

The 6.2% of globally threatened amphibians held by zoos compares poorly with global totals for birds (15.9%), mammals (23%), and reptiles (38%). The global total for amphibians is much lower, despite them being the most threatened group.

“Amphibians are in crisis and have been for a long time. They’re at the vanguard of what is now being called the sixth mass extinction. Despite this they still receive much less attention from the conservation community than other groups,” explained Jeff Dawson, lead author of the study and Amphibian Program Manager at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Read the rest of the article here

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