Why Are Amphibians in Trouble (and What Can You Do?)

Starting on Leap Day, people around the world are celebrating the International Year of the Frog. Experts fear that approximately two thousand species of frog, toad, and salamander are in danger of extinction — many within the next five years if we don’t take action.

Why are amphibians in trouble? One main factor is a fungus that comes from South Africa. Here’s how the chytrid fungus became a problem:

  1. In the 1930s, scientists discovered that the African clawed frog could be used as a human pregnancy test. Inject the frog with female urine. Within a day, if the frog produced eggs, the woman was pregnant. The frogs weren’t harmed by the procedure and could be used repeatedly.
  2. African clawed frogs were distributed around the world. Some carried the chytrid fungus — a fungus that cannot be seen on the frog or in the water the frog is in.
  3. Today, this fungus is killing frogs all around the world, threatening approximately five hundred different species with extinction. It kills between eighty-five and ninety percent of a species. (Only between ten and fifteen percent of any given species are unaffected by the fungus — the survivors will have a difficult time finding others to breed with.)

Another main factor is habitat destruction. Wetlands around the world are being drained and/or replaced, leaving frogs unable to lay eggs.

On a global level, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums is working with IUCN/SCC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group to raise awareness of the amphibian plight. They are hoping that world governments can contribute forty million dollars in order to ensure the survival of the five hundred most immediately endangered species. That money would help run a global breeding program.

What can you do to help?

  • Contribute money to conservation programs and zoos.
  • Ask your local and state government to support conservation programs.
  • Don’t use pesticides and/or herbicides in your yard and garden. Frogs absorb the chemicals directly through their skin.
  • A pond in your yard (without fish) could become a frog habitat or breeding ground.
  • Help educate others.