By Ron Gagliardo

The global amphibian crisis made front-page news during the Amphibian Ark 2008 Year of the Frog campaign. Locally, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Zoo Atlanta both participated in activities to mark the occasion and raise awareness about the troubles facing our green friends.

Did you know?

  • More than one-third of the 6,000 species are threatened.
  • There are more endangered amphibians (frogs, salamanders and caecilians) than birds, fishes or mammals, making amphibians the most threatened class of vertebrates.
  • Habitat loss, pollution, climate change and disease all threaten amphibians by themselves and together.

Why should we care?

We all can relate to amphibians, especially frogs. As kids, who didn’t chase frogs in the backyard, collect tadpoles or kiss a frog in hopes for that special prince?

Amphibians are an important part of the food web, consuming millions of insects and becoming prey for other creatures. The thin skin through which amphibians drink and breathe, makes them particularly sensitive to their environment and in some ways, our environmental barometers.

Speaking of skin, amphibian skin is a pharmaceutical treasure chest, from antibiotics and analgesics to compounds that block the transmission of HIV. Unfortunately, many species (and their skins) are going extinct before we have a chance to investigate.

As if these facts are not enough, let’s face it, Amphibians are cool, fun and irresistibly beautiful, depending on whom you ask!

What is being done?

Amphibian Ark (AArk) is a global organization dedicated to saving these important and beautiful creatures.

AArk is tasked with implementing the captive breeding aspects of the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP), a proposed $400 million bail out for amphibians. The AArk vision is simple: amphibians safe in nature. The mission is ensuring the global survival of amphibians, focusing on those that cannot currently be safeguarded in nature. This is accomplished via breeding programs, preferably temporary and within range country, conducted while the threats in nature can be mitigated.

AArk does not keep frogs itself but helps facilitate programs through its members, which include everyone from zoos and gardens to private citizens.

Amphibians are more than cultural icons or things we grew up with as kids. They represent an important component of the ecosystem, act as indicators of condition of the environment and contribute to human health. They survived on this planet for millions of years, but are now threatened with extinction. Surely we can’t let them hop away so easily!

For more information about the work of Amphibian Ark and to join for free, visit www.amphibianArk.org.

Ron Gagliardo is an Intown resident and training officer for Amphibian Ark.

To find out what you can do to help save the frogs and see a list of frogs that might be in your backyard, visit pages 5 and 6 of our new e-Edition!

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.