Panama’s Golden Frog

Amphibians, and tiny frogs, are thought in many ways to be the “canary in the coal mine” species for the planet.  When the frogs start to die off it is a warning signal.

Panama’s tiny Golden Frog is critically endangered and on the verge of extinction.

PANAMA’S GOLDEN FROGS, on the edge of extinction because of a killer fungus,  are 100 happy events closer to survival with even the possibility of a return of the species to the forests.

 Between January 2013 and March this year more than 100 golden frogs were born in captivity in the Amphibian and Frogs Conservation Center  in El Valle de Anton.

The last litter came last March, when 50 specimens were introduced to the world under a strict scientific process developed by biologists and foreign experts working with the Houston Zoo , USA .
The scientific group cataloged this as a success because the species was crisis in terms of population decline because of the presence of the killer chytrid fungus..
Experts now assess a possible return of the species to forests, healthy and free of pollution, said Heidi Ross , a researcher in charge of the center.
Ross said that the golden frog needs of creeks and streams free of pollution to live, because that is their natural habitat reports La Prensa.
The researcher said that the current figure is expected to rise because there are frogs that have not left the water.
She said that now the hard work begins , because they are small and the researchers have to ensure that their riny wards  have adequate food for optimal development , taking into account that the life of this species is very delicate.
” The future is encouraging because we have 13 adult frogs more , including two that were captured in the field, treated with medication, and who will become mothers ,” she said .

The breeding center is working on a repeat hatching in December, said Ross, with about 15 adult frogs with the ability to lay eggs said Ross.
The project has an annual budget of $100 thousand , distributed among insect rearing to supplement the diet of frogs , employee salaries , and use of electricity, needed 24 hours a day to create the artificial environment  “A service interruption would end their lives” said Ross. [NEWSROOM PANAMA]

Some additional background from Wikipedia . . .

The species was filmed for the last time in the wild in 2007 by the BBC Natural History Unit for the series Life in Cold Blood by David Attenborough. The remaining few specimens were taken into captivity and the location of filming was kept secret to protect them from potential poachers.

Populations of amphibians, including the golden frog, suffered major declines possibly due to the fungal infection chytridiomycosis. The infection is caused by an invasive fungal pathogen that reached El Valle, the home of the Panamanian golden frog in 2006. Additional factors, such as habitat loss and pollution, may have also played a role.

Although captive populations seem to thrive well, reintroducing them to an area will not stop the threat of chytridiomycosis. There are no current remedies to prevent, or any ways to control, the disease in the wild, but efforts are being made. There was one attempt to prevent a wide variety of frogs from the disease, by using bacteria known as Janthinobacterium lividium that produces a chemical against the infections; however the skin of the Gold frogs was unsuitable for the bacterium used. The San Diego zoo started a conservation effort and received their first frogs in 2003. Since then, they have been able to successfully breed 500 individuals in captivity but will not release then into the wild until the fungal disease is less of a threat. The San Diego zoo also sends money to Panama to keep up the conservation effort in the frogs’ native country

The temperature at which these amphibians keep may be in correlation with the infection of chytridiomycosis . It can be seen that the fungus is more prevalent in colder conditions.[16] If there is a cold period, the behavior and immunity of the frogs may change around the same time more spores are released. When these frogs are infected with the fungus, their body temperatures rise to fight off the fungus. However, even if the infection leaves the frog and body temperature returns to previous normal levels, the infection can reemerge.

Not only do these frogs face the threat of the fungal disease but they also are threatened by the development of society. As trees are cleared for housing and urbanization, the habitat of A. zeteki is destroyed. Other threats include the encroachment agriculture, pollution, pet trade, and aquaculture.

“Project Golden Frog” is a conservation project involving scientific, educational, and zoological institutions in the Republic of Panama and the United States. The intended outcomes of this project include greater understanding of the golden frog, coordinated conservation effort by governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations, heightened awareness of current global amphibian declines, greater respect for wildlife among Panamanians and global citizens, and greater land preservation for threatened and endangered species throughout the world. This organization will use education, field studies, producing offspring through the already captive toads, and offering financial support to help preserve these toads.

There have been two significant efforts to save these frogs. One being Amphibian Recovery Conservation Coalition (ARCC)which started in 2004. The organization exported the endangered amphibians to the USA believing it was a better environment for the endangered species. In 2005, the Houston Zoo established the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) in Panama so that the endangered frogs could have protected facilities in their native country. EVACC has become a tourist attraction and the populations of the housed species are watched closely by researchers.

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