Earth is facing its largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. From one-third to one-half of the planet's 6,000 amphibian species – frogs and toads, salamanders and newts, and caecilians, which have thrived for 360 million years – are in danger of extinction. The world's leading conservationists, including the Saint Louis Zoo, have joined together through the Amphibian Ark to help save amphibians.
Here are some fun family activities that you can do at home. Learn more about awesome amphibians.
Build a Toad Abode
A friendly toad will gobble up many harmful bugs that come into your garden. You can try to get toads to move in by making toad houses. Interestingly enough, once toads make their home in your garden, they may stay there for the rest of their lives – which can be as long as ten years! See instructions for building your own toad abode.
Play Leap Frog
Can you jump as far as a bullfrog?
An American bullfrog measures 8 inches long and can jump 6 feet from standing position to escape a predator. Use chalk to draw a start line on the sidewalk. Measure 6 feet and draw the finish line. Now jump! How far did you go?
Remember: frogs don’t run! So no running long jumps! Standing long jumps only!
Be Amphibian Friendly!
If you're out exploring the world of amphibians and go from one body of water to another (like from a river to a pond), spray your shoes with a bleach solution. Spraying your shoes with a bleach solution (see instructions on bleach bottle for proper ratios) and letting them dry before you move on to another body of water will help prevent the spread of chytrid fungus, a disease that is harming amphibians around the world.
Hop To Help!
Here are some small ways to make big leaps for amphibians
- Create amphibian-friendly environments by providing clean water, hiding places and insects to eat.
- Reduce the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas.
- Conserve water at home, school and work.
- Avoid using chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, on your lawn and garden.
- Participate in Operation Clean Stream, sponsored by the Open Space Council for the greater St. Louis region.
- Get involved locally: help restore a wetland or participate in local amphibian surveys.
- Don't pollute.
- Visit the Emerson Children's Zoo and Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium to see more amphibians up close.
- Discourage your pets from pestering wildlife, especially amphibians and birds.
- Don't take pets from the wild or participate in the illegal pet trade.
- Support the Amphibian Ark, a worldwide effort by zoos, aquariums and other conservation organizations to ensure the survival of amphibians.
Amphibians in Danger: The Extinction Crisis
The amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. One third to one half of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Probably more than 120 species have already gone extinct in recent years.
The greatest threat facing amphibians is habitat loss and degradation. Other significant threats include pollution, climate change, introduced species, and over-collection. Perhaps the most sinister threat is a newly-recognized fungal disease, which can cause rapid and severe amphibian declines. What is being done to help amphibians? Amphibian chytrid is a disease that infects the skin of amphibians, a vital organ through which many drink and breathe. It was discovered a decade ago. Dozens of frog species have already vanished because of it. In environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill 80% of the native amphibians within months. Currently, it is unstoppable and untreatable in the wild
As a first step, hundreds of experts have contributed to a Global Amphibian Assessment, an ongoing project that looks at the distribution and conservation status of all known species. In addition, amphibian specialists around the world are working on understanding the causes of the declines, developing long-term conservation programs, and responding to immediate crises.
Amphibians have been referred to as “canaries in the global coalmine” and “nature’s indicators” because they are some of the first living things to be affected by environmental changes. When amphibians show a decline, it serves as a warning to other species, including humans. By helping amphibians, we are helping the world.
Scientists are working on research, assessment and conservation of amphibians in nature. For those species that cannot be saved in nature, the plan is to rescue them before they disappear. Then they can be protected in captive facilities until the threats in the wild can be controlled.
The Amphibian Ark project was launched to buy valuable time for species that would otherwise go extinct. The Amphibian Ark is coordinating the rescue of endangered species. It is also working with partners to protect and breed these species in secure facilities at zoos, aquariums and other facilities around the world. These rescued amphibians will be released back into the wild when the threats have been controlled.