Amphibians are facing great threats. About one third of the 6000 frog, toad, salamander and newt species are threatened with extinction, more than 120 species have likely become extinct since 1980, and 435 species have declined into a category of greater threat during that time.
In October 2005, WAZA, The World Zoo and Aquarium Association, therefore adopted a strong resolution calling on all zoos and aquariums to respond to the global extinction crisis facing the world's frogs and other amphibians. This is part of a wider approach led by IUCN - The World Conservation Union, which encompasses also conservation measures in the field.
Many factors behind the extinction of frogs are still not well understood. However, it is known today that, in some parts of the world, there is a fungus causing the quick extinction of every amphibian species throughout the range. Experts are convinced that, in many cases, the only solution is to conserve them in zoos and aquariums with the hope that the species can be reintroduced to the wild at a later stage. This will require a massive coordinated effort, but it is a key solution in addressing the global amphibian extinction crisis.
With a view to galvanising coordinated action by zoos and aquariums, experts of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union, representatives of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and other stakeholders met from February 12 to 15 at El Valle, Panama, discussing how a global action plan should be implemented. They recommended criteria for prioritizing species and best practices for breeding facilities, and determined the capacity for rapid response.
The meeting envisioned a WAZA coordinateed effort with multiple partners that offers a de-centralized approach with multiple breeding facilities. There was a presumption in favour of the breeding taking place in the range countries of the species concerned. However, the value of backup facilities outside the species' range was recognized. The balance between the size of facility, economics and vulnerability will be determined.
The meeting acknowledged that this ex-situ effort is a 'stop-gap' measure, and called to Governments, the Amphibian Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union and other stakeholders to strive for a rapid response to help address the amphibian extinction crisis.
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