- Around 30% of the world’s known species of amphibians and reptiles are critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable, according to the widely-recognized authority, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™.
- Amphibians (90% of which are frogs) are the most threatened animals in nature partly due to their extreme susceptibility to environmental threats.
- Over 1800 species of reptiles and amphibians are critically endangered or endangered according to the IUCN Red list.
- Amphibians are indicator species, likened to canaries in the coal mine, being the first to disappear when an ecosystem is not healthy because they are sensitive to changes in the environment and more susceptible to disease. If amphibians are declining, it is likely that the quality of the habitat in which they live is suffering.
How are amphibians and reptiles dying?
- ♦ Habitat loss and degradation – The main threat according to Robin Moore, Amphibian Specialist Group, is habitat loss. Uncontrolled commercial land development, vehicle traffic on beaches or lake shores, sedimentation from land clearing and nutrient run-off from agriculture can all be causes of devastating habitat loss. For example, drainage of wetland areas for agricultural use of land can reduce habitat available for amphibians which require aquatic habitats
.♦ Exploitation through hunting and fishing – Trawls, gill nets and long-line fisheries cause hundreds of thousands of marine turtles to caught annually. The harvesting of amphibians for frog legs is often unregulated and in many underdeveloped countries is likely a contributor to their decline, according to Save the Frogs.
♦ Climate change— Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns cause amphibians and reptiles to migrate and/or adjust. Amphibians need moist climates to reproduce and this makes them sensitive to climate change. For example, pond-breeding species are affected by increasing droughts, and sea turtles’ beach nesting sites are affected by storm damage and sand temperature increases which can cause more females to be born than males.
♦ Infectious diseases A fungal disease called chytridiomycosis or chytrid has been sweeping through amphibian populations and causing declines in populations. The web site Frogs are Green states: “Chytridiomycosis is devastating amphibians on a scale never seen before. With over 500 species affected, chytridiomycosis is the worst case in recorded history of a disease driving vertebrate species to extinction.”
♦ Pollution – floating plastic materials and discarded fishing gear can harm animals that survive by water such as frogs and sea turtles. Rubbish on beaches and lake shores, and oil spills create serious problems in their habitat.
♦ Pesticides – Sprayed chemicals can be caught by wind and carried for miles, landing in wildlife preserves. Frogs are sensitive to toxic chemicals and can cause them to be born malformed or sterile. A critically endangered yellow-legged mountain frog called Rana muscosa lives downwind of agricultural areas in California. One scientist has hypothesized that airborne agrochemicals have played a significant role in their decline.
♦ Alien Species – An amphibian may become the prey of an introduced species, or that species might compete for the same resources as the native amphibian. They might form hybrids with the native species and reduce the gene pool.
What are the most endangered amphibians or reptiles?
◊ Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian on Earth and can grow to 6 feet. It is critically endangered and estimated to have declined more than 80% over the last three generations due to over-exploitation.Their flesh is considered a delicacy in Asia, and their large size makes them easily captured. Dam building in China can change the natural river flow where they are found.
◊ Hawksbill and Leatherback sea turtles are killed for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. Some are used for medicine and religious ceremonies. They face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. International trade in all sea turtle species is prohibited by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), but there is still illegal trafficking. Sea turtles are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and have significant cultural and tourism value. The World Wildlife Fund works to eliminate sea turtle catch and reduce illegal trade in marine turtles.
◊ The Demonic Poison Frog or Yapacana’s Little Red Frog is critically endangered and found in the humid forest habitats of southern Venezuela. Known for being highly toxic, it is found easily on bromeliad plants. It is under major threat from open pit gold mining and associated pollution.
◊ See the complete list of 525 critically endangered amphibians and 168 critically endangered reptiles by using the search engine at the IUCN Red List Discover Species.
What is being done to save amphibians and reptiles?
Many conservation organizations are trying to save amphibians and reptiles and their habitat. One in particular is dedicated to solving amphibians’ problems. Candace M. Hansen-Hendrikx of the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) states in a recent e-mail: “The Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) is the world’s largest partnership for amphibian conservation, formed in response to the decline of frogs, salamanders and caecilians worldwide. Without immediate and coordinated action we stand to lose half of some 7,000 species of amphibians in our lifetimes. The ASA draws on cutting-edge research to protect amphibians and key habitats worldwide, in addition to educating and inspiring the global community to become a part of the amphibian conservation movement. Together we can ensure that frogs, salamanders and caecilians thrive in healthy ecosystems around the world for future generations.”
What can you do to help?
- Keep up with the latest news by subscribing to e-newsletters and blogs. As I said in my last blog, I receive a weekly frog alert about frogs from all over the world from Save the Frogs, since I did research for my book, Backcut which features an endangered frog species.
- Join or follow one of the many organizations listed in Links of Interest below and show your support to save our amphibians and reptiles! Many have Facebook and Twitter pages.
- Read articles about amphibians and reptiles in my Links of Interest. Share your favorite with everyone by Leaving a Reply below.
- An excellent article “The Amphibian Extinction Crisis” was recently provided by Professor Phil Bishop, Dept. of Zoology, Dunedin, New Zealand, and can be read HERE.
LINKS OF INTEREST
Organizations in alphabetical order
- Amphibians Specialist Group and Amphibian Survival Alliance
- Endangered Species Coalition
- Endangered Species International
- Frogs are Green
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Living Rain Forest
- National Wildlife Federation
- Nature Conservancy
- Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
- Rainforest Alliance
- Southwest Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
- Save the Frogs
- Save the Reptiles
- The Biodiversity Group
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Home Page
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – International Affairs
- U.S.F.W.S. Endangered Species Home Page
- U.S. Forest Service
- World Wildlife Fund
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
“Why Amphibians are in Decline” on About Education web site.
Video –In Search of Lost Frogs “Costa Rica”
Leatherback Sea Turtle by Endangered Species Coalition
Marine Turtles by World Wildlife Fund.
“Lizard’s fate in middle of Texas oil boom” San Antonio Express News, October 5, 2014.
“Searching for a possible endangered species in the Eagle Ford Shale” San Antonio Express News, Oct. 4, 2014.
“Amphibians – The Vanishing” – National Geographic magazine, April 2009.
“Amphibians, Reptiles and Fish” by National Wildlife Federation.
Interview on declining amphibians with Robin Moore, Amphibian Specialist Group.
“Are frogs on the edge of survival?” U.S. Forest Service
“Vanishing Wildlife: Ten American Species our Children May Never See” (includes the Mountain yellow-legged Frog.
“World’s Amphibians Under Threat” by The Guardian.
“What’s Happening to the Frogs?” article on amphibian abnormalities – Fish and Wildlife Service
“The Amphibian Extinction Crisis – What will it take to put the action into the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan” in S.A.P.I.EN.S Volume 5.2, 2012 – article contributed by Phil Bishop