Chicago-based Amphibian Ark director Kevin Zippel said the looming crisis was entirely man-made and only human intervention could stop it.
“This is really a major extinction crisis,” Dr Zippel said.
“We’ve never seen a group like this singled out for extinction and what’s interesting is that this isn’t a natural phenomenon.
“Everything they’re facing is a threat that’s caused by people. So therefore we’re reasoning that people must also be a part of the solution. We must help these amphibians.”
In the past few years alone, more than 100 amphibian species, including frogs, newts, salamanders and cecilians, had been declared extinct, Dr Zippel said.
The idea behind Amphibian Ark was for an international effort to breed species under threat, providing a “long-term lifeboat” to ensure their survival.
But Dr Zippel said amphibians were facing threats in the wild that defied conventional solutions.
“Climate change will continue to get worse before it gets better, and the amphibians facing these threats have to be brought into captivity or they are going to go extinct,” he said.
“The No.1 threat is habitat loss because we’re converting wetlands into places to grow food for people.”
Dr Zippel said the demise of amphibians would come at a cost to humanity, with the potential loss of ingredients for medicines and other pharmaceuticals.
“They play a big role in human medicine due to poisons in their skin,” he said.
“Every time we lose a species of amphibian, whatever potential medicines they give to us are lost at the same time.”
Dr Zippel is in Adelaide for the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums Summit.