Monday, March 9, 2009

Zoo Atlanta Works on Global Amphibian Issue

Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Herpetology, Joseph R. Mendelson III, Ph.D, joined scientists
from around the world at San Diego Zoo’s reptile house recently to create a
comprehensive manual for how to control combating diseases in amphibians (amphibians
consist of frogs, salamanders and the little known caecilians).

The amphibian populations have steadily been declining dramatically because of chytrid,
an amphibian fungal disease that infects the skin of amphibians; a vital organ through
which many drink and breathe. It was discovered a decade ago; dozens of frog species
have already vanished because of it. In environments where it thrives, the fungus can kill
80 percent of the native amphibians within months. Currently, it is unstoppable and
untreatable in the wild, even in ‘protected’ areas. “Chytrid fungus is doing things that
diseases don’t normally do; namely, it’s driving species directly to extinction. That doesn’t
happen in a normal, healthy world,” said Joseph Mendelson.

The San Diego Zoo and Zoo Atlanta invited amphibian specialists from the United States,
Australia, and the United Kingdom, to work toward a consensus on the best practices to
prevent and control amphibian diseases. The Institute of Museum and Library Services,
the largest governmental cultural agency in the United States, provided the funds for the
three-day workshop. “We hope the work we do with our colleagues will allow us to
understand this disease and help save the amphibian species in the wild,” said Dennis
Kelly, President and CEO, Zoo Atlanta.

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