Zoo news letterhead

August 9, 2013

Saint Louis Zoo 314/781-0900
Susan Gallagher, ext. 4633
Christy Childs, ext. 4639; Joanna Bender, ext. 4703


Saint Louis Zoo Pursued Grant for Center Dedicated to Housing Critically Endangered Frogs

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has awarded $24,700 to the Quito, Ecuador, Centro Jambatu de Investigacion y Conservation de Anfibios (Jambatu Center for Research and Conservation of Amphibians). The grant application was supported by the Saint Louis Zoo, a center partner since 2006.

Founded in 2011, the Centro Jambatu‘s staff and students manage over 24 species of amphibians, 15 of them listed as critically endangered. Eleven of the 15 have been reproduced at Centro Jambatu—making their assurance population of amphibians one of the most significant and largest in the western hemisphere.

The grant will go toward building an additional frog building with frog rooms, feeder insect room and meeting/office space to help save eight species of Harlequin frog from extinction through breeding and management. Most of the harlequin frog species are listed as critically endangered and endangered with a very high risk of extinction—a problem faced by as much as half of the planet’s more than 6,000 amphibian species.

Rising temperatures, habitat destruction and the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus have wiped out multiple amphibian species in recent years. Amphibian chytrid fungus has quickly spread from Africa across the planet; it affects amphibians’ skin---a vital organ they use for drinking and breathing. Scientists are working to find a cure for this deadly disease.

“Ecuador is lucky to have one of the world's finest amphibian biologists, Dr. Luis Coloma, as a resident. With the world’s amphibian populations in drastic decline, the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute made a decision to support Dr. Coloma and his ongoing program dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of Ecuadorian amphibians,” says Mark Wanner, Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager of Herpetology & Aquatics.
“Centro Jambatu is a great example of scientific research, captive breeding and strong collaborative effort to ensure species survival,” he adds. “Due to the factors affecting wild amphibian populations today these assurance colonies become the last hope for many unique amphibian species.”

Ecuador is unique in having 70 percent of the world's flora and fauna species within its boundaries, including 448 known species of amphibians.

Background: Harlequin frogs are found in neotropics from Costa Rica to Bolivia. They belong to the genus Atelopus and include about 80 species and an estimated 35 species not yet described. The vast majority (80 percent) of the harlequin frog species lives in forested mountains where rainfall is abundant. Most of them have a limited range of distribution. Harlequin frogs are usually active day and night. Harlequin frogs are small-to-medium size amphibians, with the specie’s females larger than males. Females have usually a different color under their ventral parts.

About Centro Jambatu de Investigacion y Conservation de Anfibios: Since its founding by Dr. Luis A. Coloma in 2011, Centro Jambatu has become Ecuador’s leading institution on amphibian research and conservation. Centro Jambatu’s parent organization is Fundación Otonga, founded in 1998 and directed by Dr. Giovanni Onore. Financial support comes from such international organizations as the Saint Louis Zoo, a private Ecuadorian enterprise Wikiri SA., and the full support of the worldwide organization Amphibian Ark (AARK). AARK is a joint effort of three principal partners: the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission Conservation Breeding Specialist Group and the Amphibian Survival Alliance. Centro Jambatu is focused on holding genetically viable populations for endangered species of Ecuadorian frogs as well as the expansion of bioterium, lab and public outreach facilities. Public outreach and educational programs will assist in the viability and awareness of Centro Jambatu’s activities.

About Saint Louis Zoo: Named America’s #1 Zoo by Zagat Survey and Parenting Magazine, the Saint Louis Zoo is widely recognized for its innovative approaches to animal management, wildlife conservation, research and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, it attracts about 3,000,000 visitors a year. Through its WildCare Institute, the Zoo focuses on wildlife management and recovery, conservation science, and support of the human populations that coexist with wildlife in 12 conservation hotspots around the globe, including four in Missouri. The Saint Louis Zoo and its WildCare Institute is active in recruiting additional donors and funding partnerships for this important amphibian conservation program.