The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) joined forces with the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) on Leap Day (29th February) to raise awareness of the crisis and propose ways for Europe to intervene. At an event hosted by MEP Catherine Bearder (UK, ALDE) the conservation experts warned that of the 6,800 species of amphibians, at least a third of all species on the planet face extinction if no global action is taken, and 900 need support urgently from the zoo community to prevent extinction.
The survival of frogs is facing a silent crisis due to the devastating chytrid fungus, climate change and loss of habitat. European Union policies aimed at funding research and protecting biodiversity will go a long way in helping reduce the rate of extinction. Saving amphibians could also be a cost effective way for the EU to reach the Aichi biodiversity targets by 2020, signed by the Parties of the Convention of Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010. In order to ensure the survival of many amphibian species, the European Commission is urged to recognize chytrid fungus as an invasive alien species in its upcoming legislation and monitor and research its development to understand and control it better.
Dr Lesley Dickie, Executive Director of EAZA, "Frogs are the canaries in our coal-mine. They act as an early warning system for us. We need to do more to protect them – even if it is entirely for selfish reasons of self-preservation. Frogs have been on the earth for 360 million years and have made an important contribution to the balance of the eco-system. Their extinction would be the biggest loss of species since the dinosaurs.
Zoos are already running breeding programmes and in collaboration with universities developing guidelines for zoos which are willing to undertake their own research, but we need strong policy support"
Dr Jaime Garcia Moreno, Executive Director of ASA: "Amphibians are sensitive to environmental changes and are therefore important indicators for quality of water for example. They are key to the food chain and act as a critical form of pest control. Frogs are hugely important for developing some medical treatments – potential treatments for cancer, AIDS, pain killers or new kinds of antibiotics.
A European Commission official present at the European Parliament event pointed to some general schemes which aimed to help amphibian conservation such as Natura 2000, the habitat directive and the Water Framework, all of which could help preserve species through the conservation of the habitats they require. However, the amphibian conservationists believe that the crisis for frogs is so acute and far-reaching that urgent policy focus needs to be given to their conservation.
• EAZA has over 340 members in 41 countries and represents the leading zoos and aquariums of Europe and the Middle East. EAZA zoos and aquariums are found in 25 of the 27 EU member States (www.eaza.net).
• EAZA members contribute annually €2.5 billion to the European economy and spend €100 million per year on conservation in the wild. Annually more than 5 million European school children receive formal teaching on wildlife conservation through EAZA members, making EAZA one of the largest non-governmental formal science education networks in the world.
ASA is the initiative that coordinates the implementation of the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan, agreed by international experts in 2005. ASA represents a coalition of institutions committed to the implementation of measures that lead to improved conditions of amphibians all around the world.
Its mission is working in partnership to ensure the global survival of amphibians.