Burned Forests Threaten the Frogs of Madagascar – Guest Post, Franco Andreone

We are so pleased that Franco Andreone, Associate Curator of Zoology, Responsible for Herpetological and Ichthyological Collections, Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Italy, offered to write a guest post for Frogs Are Green about his recent visit to Madagascar and what he encountered there—the possible extinction of  frogs species due to the destruction of its forests.


In October, I visited the Ankaratra, a massif next to Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, for a quick trip in an attempt to see two of the most threatened (maybe “the most threatened”) frog species of Madagascar: Boophis williamsii and Mantidactylus pauliani.

They are both CR species and live in an area that is not yet protected and has been heavily altered. For some time, on behalf of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), we have advocated the need for protecting this area. To this end, a project has been set up with the help of Conservation International and the collaboration of many colleagues, with the aim of securing the area, which is also very important because it is a draining basin for potable water for the city of Ambatolampy. Through the ASG it was also possible to get a MacArthur grant that will be helpful for any further action.

Some people, notably from the Langaha Association and Madagasikara Voakajy, have begun work on the species, along with other herp species (i.e. Furcifer campani); they have collected data on both B. williamsii and M. pauliani. The two species appear VERY localised, with no more than three spots where they have been found. M. pauliani appeared a little bit more common, but we observed less than ten B. williamsii individuals.

I was already concerned about the threats to these species and their habitat. The bad news is that during the rapid survey we did (a few hours visit), we noticed that almost ALL the exotic forest was burned. This forest, composed mainly of pines, assured a certain naturalness to the area, and prevented erosion. Now, following the voluntary burning events of last July, almost all the forest has been “transformed” into charcoal. This will have serious and terrible consequences for the human populations, especially for the availability of drinking water. Most likely, during the next rainy season there will be accelerated erosion and the water will become heavily polluted. Clearly the amphibian populations will be tragically affected as well. Although one of the sites is still within a small parcel of “natural” forest, the burned trees are all around, and at the other sites the fire event has destroyed the small residual (ferns, grass) vegetation that likely assured the survival of the species.

During the visit we found some B. williamsii, but we really wonder what the effect of the next rains will be. The tadpoles need clear and clean water, and if the water is polluted by erosion, they will most likely die.

Furthermore, there really is a risk that the species will be driven to extinction within a short time.

Boophis williamsii courtesy of Franco Andreone

Boophis williamsii tadpole courtesy of Franco Andreone

Habitat Ankaratra courtesy of Franco Andreone

Mantidactylus pauliani courtesy of Franco Andreone

For more information, please visit my website:  www.francoandreone.it


Text "FROG" and Help Save a Frog Today

Below is a re-post from the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation project about their newly launched Text-Frog campaign to raise 50 K for their amphibian rescue program. We hope you will consider helping this worthwhile amphibian conservation effort by donating $5 via cell phone. See below for details.

YOU can help frogs!

The price we pay every time we lose a frog species to chytrid is too great to measure. The cost of saving frogs, however, is scant in comparison. But we need your help! That’s why we’ve launched a mobile giving campaign, providing an easy and convenient tool for you to help us battle chytrid and give the frogs a safe haven. Just pull out your cell phone and text “FROG” to 20222 to make a $5 donation to the rescue project.

Every $5 that comes in this way will go toward our new goal of raising the $50,000 it takes to turn a shipping container into a rescue pod. These rescue pods are biosecure “arks” where we can care for frogs that would otherwise be hit hard by the wave of chytrid. Without this ark, we won’t have a safe place to keep the frogs—so help us raise the funds by spreading the word!

So what will your money buy? Check it out:

$5: Three swab sticks used to test frogs for chytrid.
$5: A box of gloves to help ensure the cleanest and safest handling of the frogs.
$5: Pair of Crocs for keepers and visitors to change into to prevent bringing anything harmful into the biosecure rescue pods and areas where the frogs are kept.
$5: Small cricket container—caring for the frogs’ food is an important part of caring for the frogs.
$10: Four gallons of bleach, to keep the floor of the pod and quarantine rooms sterile.
$10: Large cricket container.
$10: Frog quarantine tank.
$15: Tub of yeast to feed fruit flies, which in turn are fed to the frogs.
$20: Calcium powder for frogs to keep them strong and healthy.
$20: Paper towel pack to help clean the tanks.
$30: 100 pounds of tilapia (fish food) to feed the crickets.
$30: Standard frog tank.
$150: Bottle of anti-fungal medication to treat the animals for chytrid.

Watch as our rescue pod fills up with frogs by following the progress of our $50K for Frogs campaign. And make sure to text “FROG” to 20222* to save a frog today! (You can text “FROG” to 20222 up to six times.)

*A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. Messaging & Data Rates May Apply. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. You can unsubscribe at any time by replying STOP to short code 20222; Reply HELP to 20222 for help. You can also find the privacy policy here.


One of the Smallest Frogs in the World Discovered

A pea-sized frog species, Microhyla nepenthicola, was discovered this past week in Malaysian rainforests on the island of Borneo. This miniature frog, measuring between 10 to 12 millimeters (less than one-half inch), is the smallest frog species discovered so far in Asia, Africa, or Europe. The tiny frog is a type of frog called a microhylid, composed of mini-frogs under 15 millimeters. The discovery was made by Drs. Indraneil Das of the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation and Dr. Alexander Haas of Biozentrum Grindel und Zoologisches Museum of Hamburg.

Photograph courtesy Indraneil Das, Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation

The tiny frogs were found near pitcher plants, which grow in damp, shady forests. The frogs deposit their eggs on the sides of the globular pitcher, and tadpoles grow in the liquid accumulated inside the plant.

What is the world’s smallest frog? Two 9.8-mm-long amphibians in the New World—the gold frog in Brazil (Brachycephalus didactylus) and the Monte Iberia dwarf frog(Eleutherodactylus iberia) in Cuba are believed to be the world’s smallest frog species. They are about the size of a house fly—very tiny frogs indeed.

For more information, see:Conservation International


Hope for Frogs in Fight Against Chytrid Fungus

This week  Scientific American reported that researchers in California and Virginia have identified a symbiotic bacteria living on frogs’ skin that protects them from chytrid, a fungal disease contributing to the extinction of one-third of the world’s amphibians.  They discovered this naturally occurring bacteria, toxic to the chytrid fungus, in the skin of mountain yellow-legged frogs and redback salmanders.

The chytrid fungus most likely began in African Clawed frogs, which carry the fungus that causes chytrid, but don’t die from it. In the 1940s these frogs were raised in captivity for pregnancy tests.  Most of the frogs were released once this method was no longer used for the tests. They infected amphibians in the United States and around the world.

So far scientists have not found a way to combat this deadly disease that spreads quickly in amphibian populations. Individual animals can be treated, but not large populations of amphibians.

But in this recent study, frogs inoculated with a solution containing the symbiotic skin bacteria survived. The scientists plan to introduce the bacteria to the wild with with a method called bioaugmentation. They hope to increase naturally occurring bacteria so that it can spread to even more frogs and other amphibians.

This summer the scientists will be conducting tests in isolated areas to ensure that  bioaugmentation will be safe and environmentally friendly. If successful, this might offer the first real hope for warding off the mass exinction of the earth’s amphibians. Good news indeed for our froggy friends!

Mountain Yellow-legged frog