Frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, and caecilians are going extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List of Threatened Species estimates that at least one-third of known amphibian species are threatened with extinction, a rate higher than that for birds or mammals. Major threats to amphibians include habitat loss or degradation and the rapidly dispersing infectious disease chytridiomycosis. Managed populations of amphibians may become the only conservation hope for many species faced with imminent extinction.
AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, with their demonstrated expertise in Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Programs, have been called upon to meet this challenge. Once common across Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) was driven nearly to extinction by human activities. In 1982, under the auspices of the AZA Amphibian Taxonomic Advisory Group (TAG), the Puerto Rican Crested Toad SSP Program began a reintroduction program to breed and release this species into its native habitat. Since then, SSPs for the Wyoming Toad, Panamanian Golden Frog, Harlequin Golden Frog, Dusky Gopher Frog, and Houston Toad have been established to enhance amphibian conservation efforts.
AZA, its Animal Programs and Committees are committed to protecting amphibians. The Amphibian TAG and SSPs work directly with at-risk species, while the Conservation Education Committee developed conservation and education resources. Akron Zoo manages the FrogWatch USA citizen science program.
Amphibian Conservation and Management
AZA’s Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group (ATAG) serves a vital role in helping AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums take strategic, sustainable, and effective actions towards the protection and conservation of amphibians. Some available resources include:
- Action Plan for Ex Situ Amphibian Conservation in the AZA Community - based on workshops facilitated by Amphibian Ark, this document provides AZA facilities with a North American amphibian conservation action plan and lays the groundwork for the Amphibian Regional Collection Plan
- Amphibian Regional Collection Plan - identifies species that could benefit from ex situ conservation programs, how much space should be dedicated to each within AZA-accredited institutions, and recommends in situ conservation strategies. This resource can be downloaded by logging in to the website, navigating to the Animal Programs database by clicking "Animal Programs" in the left-hand menu, clicking "Search Animal Program Documents", and then typing "Amphibian TAG RCP" into the Search Term box.
- Conservation Resource Manual - illustrates the experiences and expertise of AZA colleagues in developing and evaluating domestic and international ex situ breeding and education programs. Additional resources include husbandry protocols, funding opportunities, and key contacts.
- Husbandry Guide / Guía para el Manejo de Anfibios en Cautiverio - provides information about the most successful amphibian husbandry techniques used to care for the species in AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums.
FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program by which volunteers learn about wetlands in their communities and contribute data on the calls of local frogs and toads to a national dataset. The information from thousands of other FrogWatch USA volunteers across the United States is readily available for ongoing analyses to help develop practical strategies for the benefit of these important animals. Read more about FrogWatch USA.
AZA Members Help Amphibians
Every year, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums provide information about their field conservation and science activities to AZA’s Conservation and Research Database. Members enter program updates each year; follow the link and use the search fields to explore how individual AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums are helping amphibians and other animals. Read more about the AZA community’s commitment to conservation and science.