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Effort to save world’s rarest frogs recognized with conservation award

The Panamanian golden toad, a species now extinct in the wild, is being bred in a number of facilities around the world to ensure its survival. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

An effort to save the world’s most endangered amphibians has won’s 2011 conservation award.

Amphibian Ark [Donate] — a joint effort of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group — is working to evaluate the status of threatened amphibians, raise awareness about the global amphibian extinction crisis, and set up captive breeding programs. The initiative is targeting 500 species “whose threats currently cannot be mitigated quickly enough to stave off extinction” — in other words, 500 species that will not survive without captive breeding efforts.

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Amphibians — which include frogs and toads, salamanders and newts, and caecilians — are among the most threatened of all animal groups. They face a range of threats, including the outbreak of chytridiomycosis, a deadly fungal epidemic that is rapidly extinguishing amphibians around the world; habitat loss from deforestation, forest degradation, and loss of wetlands; the impacts of climate change, including shifts in rainfall and temperatures; introduced species; pollution from pesticide and fertilizer use; and overexploitation for the pet trade and human consumption. Nearly 1,900 (30 percent) of the 6,285 amphibian species assessed by the IUCN are threatened with extinction. Some 165 are known to have gone extinct and another 130 are “missing” — they haven’t been seen in years and are possibly extinct.

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Herpetologist trying to save a Hyloscirtus colymba tree frog at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.

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Dendrobates ventrimaculatus poison frog from Peru.

Blueberry dart frog
Blue form of the green-and-black poison dart frog. Photos by Rhett A. Butler

“My love of amphibians is the reason I originally became interested in rainforests,” said’s president and founder Rhett A. Butler. “So this year I’m very happy to recognize an effort to save endangered amphibians from extinction. Amphibian Ark is playing a key role in coordinating captive-breeding programs and making people aware of the plight of many amphibians.”

Kevin Zippel, Amphibian Program Director at Amphibian Ark, welcomed the award.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by for our conservation efforts,” he said.

“Amphibians are truly precious, from their role in healthy ecosystems to their contributions to human medicine, and never before in their 360 million year history have they needed help more than now. This award and the attention it draws will help us in our efforts to rescue imperiled amphibians. On behalf of dedicated AArk partners around the world, and the amphibians themselves, we express our sincere gratitude.”

Each year selects an organization to honor with its conservation award. The award includes a cash prize and prominent placement of’s homepage and in its weekly newsletter for the month of December. Previous winners include AITo and the Nantu Forest Conservation Program (2010), WildlifeDirect (2009), Health In Harmony/Project ASRI (2008), and the Amazon Conservation Team (2007).

Amphibian Ark

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