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Frog ‘love shack’ to open at Bristol Zoo Gardens


Bristol Zoo Gardens is due to open an amphibian breeding sanctuary within its grounds to breed two frog species on the verge of extinction.

The facility will provide a safe home for some of the world’s most endangered frog species - lemur leaf frogs and golden mantella frogs – which will be settled into their new home in the coming weeks.

Called the ‘AmphiPod’, the facility will provide the perfect conditions to allow the rare frogs to breed, in an effort to help save the species from extinction. Both species are listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Tim Skelton, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of Reptiles, explains: “This high tech facility will allow us to adjust the temperature, humidity and day length to create the perfect conditions to encourage the frogs to breed.”

He added: “We are thrilled to have been able to build this facility as it will be a vital tool in helping to save high-risk frog species from the danger of extinction – which is currently a very real and near threat.”

The extinction crisis is mainly due to man’s destruction of amphibians’ natural habitats, but in a deadly combination with pollution and climate change, they now face an even bigger and deadlier threat – a fungal disease called ‘amphibian Chytrid’ (chytridiomycosis).

This killer fungus is steadily spreading over the world. One third to one half of all amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction, with more than 160 species thought to have been lost in recent years. The threat is so serious that the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has said that the only hope for many species is to be held in captivity until the disease can be tackled in the wild.

As a result, priority amphibian species are being taken into dedicated facilities at zoos, aquariums, and other institutions around the world for safekeeping and breeding.

Tim Skelton added: ”Until a solution is found to help stop the fungus in the wild, the safekeeping and captive management of threatened amphibians is the only way to ensure their long-term survival.

“Our new AmphiPod will allow us to keep frogs in a safe, isolated environment, away from any threat of disease, as well as giving our keepers the opportunity to learn the techniques required for the specialist amphibian care we can provide in the AmphiPod. In future we will be able to provide a safe haven to other amphibian species in immediate danger of extinction.”

Bristol Zoo’s AmphiPod has been built following a year of fundraising by the Zoo as part of its Year of the Frog campaign in 2008. The Zoo’s fundraising efforts included proceeds from the Zoo’s Boogie for Brizzle summer event, various fundraising challenges throughout the year and the support of generous trusts.

As well as thanking members of the public who donated to the campaign, the Zoo would also like to thank a number of local companies, including Vincent Timber, for donating the roof shingles for the sanctuary.

However, the Zoo is still £30,000 short of the target amount which will help pay for the continued cost of running the facility for the next three years. For a Valentine’s gift with a difference, why not make a donation towards the Zoo’s ‘love shack’?

To find out more about how you could help, please contact Lizy Jones on ljones [at] bristolzoo [dot] org [dot] uk or telephone 0117 974 7329.

Lemur leaf frog
Lemur leaf frog
Golden mantella frog
Golden mantella frog
Keeper Andy Carbin with a lemur leaf frog
Keeper Andy Carbin with a lemur leaf frog

Ends

For press enquiries or more images, please contact Bristol Zoo’s press office:
Lucy Parkinson, T: 0117 974 7306, or email: lparkinson [at] bristolzoo [dot] org [dot] uk
Vanessa Hollier, T: 0117 974 7309, email: vhollier [at] bristolzoo [dot] org [dot] uk

Notes to the Editor:

The frog species which will live in Bristol Zoo’s AmphiPod:

Lemur leaf frog - Hylomantis lemur
This critically endangered amphibian is only found in a few places in Costa Rica and Panama; and the number of lemur leaf frogs left in the wild is thought to be dangerously low.
The current extinction crisis is mainly due to climate change and man’s destruction of amphibians’ natural habitats, but amphibians across the globe now also face an even bigger and deadlier threat – a fungal disease called ‘amphibian Chytrid’.
This month Bristol Zoo Gardens is opening an amphibian sanctuary within its grounds to breed two frog species on the verge of extinction – the lemur leaf frog and the golden mantella frog. The facility will provide a safe home for the frogs which are critically endangered. Called the ‘AmphiPod’, the facility will provide the perfect conditions to allow the rare frogs to breed, in an effort to help save the species from extinction.

Golden mantella frog - Mantella aurantiaca
Golden mantella frogs are around just 2cm long and are brilliant golden-orange in colour, with black eyes. The bright colours are as a result of 'aposematic coloration'. This means that they display the bright colours usually associated with toxic species to ward off predators.
Golden mantella frogs are critically endangered and are native to the forests of Madagascar, where they live in a fragmented area of forest surrounded by degraded land. The remaining forest is under threat from subsistence agriculture, timber extraction, fires and expanding human settlements. Limits on the exportation of these animals have been imposed and the trade of these frogs has been greatly reduced as a result.

Bristol Zoo Gardens

  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is an education and conservation charity and relies on the income from visitors to support its work.
  • Throughout 2010 Bristol Zoo will be running a series of events to highlight the importance of conserving the world’s biodiversity, as part of the international Year of Biodiversity. For more information visit the Zoo website at www.bristolzoo.org.uk/about/conservation/campaigns/iyob
  • To find out more about the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity visit the website at www.unep.org/iyb/
  • Bristol Zoo is open from 9am every day except Christmas Day.
  • The Zoo is involved with more than 100 co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species.
  • It employs 140 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and run a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work.
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens supports – through finance and skill sharing - over 10 projects in the UK and abroad that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
  • Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.

The Year of the Frog

  • The 2008 Year of the Frog was a global campaign to raise awareness of the amphibian crisis.
  • Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians.
  • Amphibian species are becoming extinct at a pace never seen before.
  • In 2004, the Global Amphibian Assessment conducted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) revealed that one-third to one-half of the world’s 6,500 amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction and the only hope for many surviving species is to be taken into captivity
  • Zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens will play a crucial role as part of the immediate response by providing the ex-situ breeding grounds for some threatened species.
  • Frogs play an important role in the ecosystem as both predator and prey, sustaining the delicate balance of nature.
  • They perform invertebrate pest population control, important to successful agricultural efforts around the world and reducing the spread of disease (e.g. malaria).
  • Their skin produces substances that kill microbes and viruses, offering promising medical cures for a variety of illnesses, including HIV.
  • Their skin is highly permeable, allowing contaminants to enter the body more readily, making them an exceptional indicator of environmental quality.
  • Frogs have maintained a special place in human culture for many centuries, cherished as agents of life and good luck.