The Detroit Zoo will gather conservationists and amphibian scientists from around the world later this year to discuss solutions to amphibian die-offs caused by climate change and disease.
“Amphibians are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine,” says Detroit Zoological Society Executive Director and CEO Ron Kagan. “When hundreds of species of an entire class of animal are in decline, it signals a threat to many other species.”
Kagan says the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center was the first major conservation facility dedicated specifically to amphibians. He says the no specific date has been picked for the conference, to be held at the zoo.
He adds, the zoo’s conservation efforts include breeding programs for endangered amphibians. One program successfully bred more than 22,000 Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles, which were shipped to Puerto Rico for introduction to the wild.
The zoo has also made the amphibian conservation effort local. The zoo conducts annual surveys of salamanders in the Detroit River to determine the health of the amphibian population, as they are good indicators of the environment’s response to pollution.
“We know about the extinctions and crises amphibians face globally, but we also need to keep tabs on what’s happening in our own backyard,” Kagan says. “These programs allow us to monitor native amphibians and make sure their populations are healthy.”