BANGALORE: They are not exactly cutie-pies. Being slimy and warty, frogs may not feature in your list of favourite animals. But you’ve got to admit you would miss their rrribbids if they fell silent on a rainy night. And, tellingly, they are an indicator of the health of the local environment.
According to research by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), nearly half of the Earth’s 6,000 amphibians, including frogs, are in danger of extinction. Destruction of habitat, trade and over-collection are just some of the factors that are threatening the frogs along with a another unstoppable killer, amphibian chytrid, a fungal disease that has the capacity to catalyse what could be the largest mass extinction since dinosaurs disappeared, according to IUCN.
To save the frog from this fate, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, IUCN’s Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group have formed Amphibian Ark, a programme designed to educate, raise funds and captive breed the species. They have also declared 2008 as the Year of the Frog.
Frogs form an essential part of the ecosystem – as predator and prey – snapping up bugs and insects that destroy crops, and ending up in turn as sumptuous meals for birds, fish and turtles (or on dinner plates for those consider frog legs a delicacy).
In India, the campaign will be promoted by the Amphibian Network of South Asia and its hosts and Zoo Outreach Organisation (ZOO).
Sanjay Molur, Deputy Director of ZOO, Coimbatore, says: “In India, the focus is always on new research, on discovering new species. But a lot of work needs to be done to determine the status of frogs.” For instance, he says, “there is no information on whether chytrid sickness has spread rapidly in India. It may be killing frogs silently somewhere in India without our knowledge.”
A training workshop has been initiated by ZOO in Periyar to train individuals and prepare them to handle this crisis, Mr. Molur adds. “We have also come out with over 5,000 Amphibian Ark publications to educate the general public, students, teachers and government officials.”
The educational programmes and activity will become vigorous in the run up to 2008 when the whole campaign will begin on a large scale, he says. The funds raised from this global campaign will be used to raise funds for the conservation work of these amphibians.
For more information about this campaign or be a part of it, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or to AArk at ZOO WILD, PO Box 1683, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu 641004.