Monday, 25 July 2011

Half of amphibian population in danger of extinction worldwide

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Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium recently introduced some quirky new inhabitants to its Sappi River Meander exhibit. A variety of frog species have joined the other thriving inhabitants in the exhibit. The decline in amphibian species is believed to indicate a much broader decline of the environment globally. Sadly, South African amphibian species are as affected.
The Aquarium joins over 500 zoos and aquariums around the world which have committed to similar displays to raise awareness of the plight of frogs, inform visitors on what they can do to create frog-friendly environments and raise funds for the Amphibian Ark, an international frog breeding programme.

“We are very excited about the exhibition since our own tree farms are home to many frog species,” comments André Oberholzer, Sappi’s Group Head Corporate Affairs. “Sappi hopes that the exhibition will inform people of the importance of biodiversity and the need to ensure the contined wellbeing of amphibian species.”

Walking through the Sappi River Meander which demonstrates the cycle of a river from its source to the sea, the frog exhibits contain species common to the Western Cape, but rarely seen by most people, including common platannas, arum lily frogs, Cape river frogs, painted reed frogs and an endangered Western leopard toad.

Recent research done by the IUCN shows that 52% of the world’s amphibians are particularly susceptible to climate change, while almost 35% of the group are threatened with total extinction due to current conditions. Amphibians are considered to be an indicator species for environmental damage because they are more sensitive and vulnerable to changes to the environment than most other species.

Scientists have cited various causes for the major decline in amphibians worldwide, with compelling evidence for disease, habitat loss, climate change, UV radiation, contaminants and pollutants and predation by invasive species as the top possible causes.

“In only the past 20 years, the number of known amphibians has increased by 48%. Tragically, we are losing them almost as fast as we find them,” comments Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Biodiversity Assessment Sub-Committee.

The threat to amphibians is said to represent the greatest challenge to conservation in our history. “It is up to the public and private sectors, as well as each individual, to consider the future of our environment and the impact that our actions have,” Oberholzer closes.

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