Experts say nearly half of all the world’s more than 6,000 species of amphibians are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticides, introduced species, wild animal collection and most urgently, a parasitic fungus called amphibian chytrid, a deadly disease that is rapidly eradicating amphibian species throughout the planet. This represents the greatest species conservation challenge in our history.

Panamanian Golden Frog – Due to the global amphibian crisis, Como staff is participating in the management and husbandry of five species of frogs endemic to the Central American country of Panama as part of the Chytrid Fungus Recover Plan. Zookeepers at Como Zoo have successfully bred Panamanian Golden Frogs, Lemur Tree Frogs and Glass Frogs. Some of the resulting offspring have been donated to other AZA institutions.

Poison Dart Frogs – Poison dart frogs, also called poison arrow frogs, are so named because some Amerindian tribes have used their secretions to poison their darts. These frogs are found in Colombia along the western slopes of the Andes. In 1999 a Zoo pathologist published his discovery of a then-mysterious infection that was afflicting and eventually killing poison arrow frogs and white’s tree frogs. Through his effort, cutaneous chytridiomycosis was documented for the first time as a vertebrate parasite. The veterinarians along with keepers and pathologists also developed a treatment for the chytrids. Como Zoo has been working on conservation and breeding programs for the Poison Dart Frog, along with the treatment of this parasite.

Tropical Tree Frog – Due to habitat loss, these small creatures are running the risk of becoming extinct. These animals are the most important part of our ecosystem. For example, they consume large quantities of insects and other prey, and in turn they are consumed by other animals, in endless food webs of rainforests. Just because they are such vital chains in the ecosystems they belong to, and due to their overall sensitivity, frogs are considered an indicator species – the species that can act show environmental change or the change in an ecosystem’s health. The “indication” for us humans to note here is that such environmental change affecting the tropical frogs can also affect many other species of animals including ourselves.

Wyoming Toad – Como Zoo has paired up with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to assist with the Wyoming Toad Recovery Project. Wyoming toads are listed as endangered. In 1996, the USFWS partnered with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to develop a captive-breeding program as well as to reclaim toad habitats. Since then, thousands of tadpoles have been released into protected areas. Although the population seems to be increasing, the USFWS has not been able to systematically monitor the release sites to determine the success of the project. But this changed in 2008. Como Zoo has been part of a team visiting Laramie to join the USFWS and other AZA zoos to conduct surveys. Using GPS units, volunteers set up transects (a designated piece of land) around Lake Mortenson and began to look for toads. In each transect, they were given an allotted period of time to look for toads. When a toad was found, volunteers took its photo, and then measured, swabbed for chytrid, weighed, sexed and tagged it. Tagging is the placement of a microchip, just like the ones used in pet cats and dogs. By tagging a toad, it can be determined if this was an animal that was caught before. If it was, a history of the animal can be developed. Volunteers also took an assessment of the environmental conditions, such as the wind, sun and what type of vegetation the toads were found.