Frog Lovers Worldwide Unite for ‘Save the Frogs’ Day
Frog lovers in 19 countries gathered Friday to “ribbet” in honor of “Save The Frogs” day, known as the largest day of worldwide amphibian conservation action and education.
Scientists, educators and policymakers took part in more than 100 international events with one leaping mission in mind: to raise awareness of the amphibians’ rapid rate of decline.
Habitat destruction, infectious diseases, pollution and pesticides, climate change and over-harvesting for pet and food trades are the some of the major contributing factors to the amphibian’s decline worldwide, said Kerry Kriger, founder and executive director of “Save The Frogs.”
“Frogs are the flag-ship species of all amphibians,” said Dr. Malcolm McCallum, managing editor of Herpetological Conservation and Biology. “There’s a whole array of environmental issues that go hand-in-hand and they all collectively interact and contribute to this unprecedented decline we are seeing in the last 50 to 100 years.”
Frogs can adapt to aquatic and terrestrial environments and their permeable skin is naturally susceptible to pathogens, pollutants, and slight changes in the environment, McCallum said. For this reason, scientists say frogs are good bioindicator species and can clue us in on early warning signs of other environmental stresses.
The American Bullfrog – the largest frog species in North America – is being red listed by many scientists. The voracious amphibian is one of the most commonly farmed and consumed of its swamp mates.
It also poses a threat to other species. When introduced to non-native environments it acts as an invasive species and cause wide spread ecological damage.
“When the American Bullfrogs are transported to new environments many times they out compete native amphibians and can routinely carry the chytrid fungus – a lethal amphibian skin disease – that can be deadly to other populations of amphibians,” said McCallum.
The trade of frog legs also poses a significant threat. Using data from the UN Commodity Trade Statistics from 1996 to 2006, amphibian conservation biologists Brian Gratwicke and a team of researchers found that most countries throughout the world participated in the trade at some level.
Gatwicke’s study, published in 2009, found that Indonesia supplied nearly half of the animals in the world’s $40 million dollar per year international frog legs trade. France, Belgium, and the United States imported more than 75% of all frog legs traded internationally.
This year’s “Save The Frogs” event in the United States focused on an awareness campaign against the use of the popular weed-killer Atrazine. A rally launched at the steps of the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Atrazine has been a long-standing favorite herbicide among corn, sorghum and sugarcane farmers in the United States because it is affordable and can eliminate the need for tilling the soil, said researcher Tyrone B. Hayes, a biologist and herpetologist at the University of Berkeley. Tens of millions of pounds of atrazine are used each year in the United States.
Scientists believe the pesticide interferes with endocrine hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
“The effects of Atrazine in the long term have been shown to demasculinize or chemically castrate [frogs], combined with complete feminization of some animals,” said researcher Tyrone B. Hayes, a biologist and herpetologist at the University of Berkeley. “We need to reconfigure how we evaluate chemicals in the environment and the impact on environmental health and public health.”
The European Union banned atrazine in 2004 because it was consistently showing up in levels higher than 0.1 ppb – its threshold for harmful chemicals – in drinking water.
Not everyone agrees. Syngenta, a Swiss company that is the largest manufacturer of atrazine, has challenged the validity of Hayes’ research.
Scientists say the future fate of the Kermits of the world is in serious jeopardy. If little to no action is taken, this is one story that could not have a fairytale ending.
“Frogs have been around in their current form for over 250 million years,” said Kriger. “They are very strong creatures. They’ve out lived the dinosaurs, survived numerous ice ages, asteroid crashes and volcanic explosions, yet in the last half century we have driven almost one-third of the amphibian species to the verge of extinction.”