The first annual “Save The Frogs Day” was declared today, April 28, by a conservation organization set up to generate awareness of the extinction crisis facing many of the world’s amphibians.
“The goal is to raise awareness of the rapid disappearance of frog species worldwide,” says a news release announcing the event. “Save The Frogs Day events are planned in nearly a dozen countries, including the United States, Canada, Italy, China, and Australia.”
The event is organized by Save the Frogs, a nonprofit based in Manassas, Virginia. The charity was founded in May 2008 by Kerry Kriger and scientists, educators, policymakers, and naturalists dedicated to protecting the world’s amphibian species through environmental education, scientific research, legal defense and the acquisition of critical habitat.
NGS photo of juvenile tree frog by Paul Zahl
Kriger participated in a research project about the amphibian disease chytridiomycos, funded in part by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. His work on chytridiomycosis has been published in 15 articles in peer-reviewed international scientific journals. Kriger founded Save the Frogs in May 2008 and is the charity’s executive director and only full-time employee.
Nearly one-third of the world’s 6,485 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, and at least 150 species have completely disappeared since 1980, and most people don’t know about it, Kriger told me in a phone interview.
Save the Frogs Day has been recognized as an official event by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. “As far as I know, Governor Kaine is the highest-ranking elected official in the world to acknowledge the extinction crisis facing frogs,” Kriger said. “Next year I am going to ask everyone to write to their governors and other public representatives. We need to spread the word to the politicians.”
Habitat destruction is the primary threat to frogs in lowland areas. But the deadly skin disease caused by a chytrid fungus is spreading through mountainous regions worldwide, driving frog species to extinction within months of its arrival.
NGS photo of hourglass tree frog by Paul Zahl
Millions of frogs are shipped worldwide each year for use as pets or food, and few regulations exist to prevent the transport of infected individuals, the Save the Frogs release says. “Sick frogs inevitably escape into the wild and introduce their disease to places where the native frogs have no evolved defenses. To make matters worse, pesticides and global warming weaken frogs’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to infectious diseases.”
Kriger hopes that Save The Frogs Day will dramatically increase frog awareness on a global scale.
In recognition of Save The Frogs Day, scientists worldwide will deliver presentations about the amphibian extinction crisis to local schools, zoos and community groups this April 28th. Teachers and students will focus on amphibian conservation, learning about threats to frogs and discussing ways to contribute to conservation efforts. Events for schools also include participating in frog art and frog poetry contests.
Some simple everyday things everyone can do to help save frogs, Kriger says, include not using pesticides in and around the home (chemicals that get into rivers and ponds are not compatible with a healthy ecosystem for frogs), not eating frogs, not buying wild frogs as pets, and lobbying politicians for funding for research and scholarships to train herpetologists.
NGS photo of reed frog by Michael Nichols
Ultimately, Kriger wants to see funding to buy critical habitat for frogs and laws passed to protect amphibians. “This is one of the most significant environmental issues of the 21st century,” he says. “Unless we act quickly, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to Earth’s ecosystems and to humans.”
NGS photo of harlequin tree frogs by Paul Zahl
How to Help (Save the Frogs Web site tips and advice on what you can do to save frogs.)
Related NatGeo News Watch entries: