Learn more about the Amphibian Conservation Education Project.
Close to 6,000 known species of amphibians live in our world; however, many are going extinct at an alarming rate. Currently, almost 2,000 species are threatened with extinction; that is nearly 1/3 of the planet's amphibians. This percentage is considerably higher than other groups. For example, 23% of mammal species and 12% of bird species are at risk. In order to accurately assess the level of threat, a great deal of research needs to be conducted.
Declines in amphibian populations are due to many factors including loss of suitable habitat, logging, urbanization, pollution, and some agricultural practices. In addition, diseases, particularly the Chytrid fungus, are spreading rapidly through worldwide amphibian habitats killing entire populations.
Amphibians are vital to the ecosystem and research. Frogs and toads act as exterminators, controlling populations of insects such as mosquitoes, which may carry West Nile Virus and Malaria. Currently, skin secretions from some amphibians are being used in the pharmaceutical industry to help treat specific conditions, including cancer.
Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, together with other zoos and organizations, has launched the Amphibian Conservation Initiative to address this issue on a global scale. This initiative includes the establishment of facilities and the training of staff, capable of quarantining amphibians and carrying out captive breeding programs. Once threats have been lowered or resolved, offspring of the amphibians will be released back into the wild.