Amphibian Crisis

Learn and Share Your Concern.

Amphibians—that is frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and the odd caecilians—are disappearing from habitats all around the world at an alarming rate. We are only now fully grasping the scope of the crisis, but we do know that the Earth is facing perhaps the largest mass species extinction period in the history of our planet, comparable only to the disappearance of dinosaurs.

Amphibian Rescue & Conservation Project Updates

FEBRUARY 22, 2011: CMZOO Finds Endangered Frog in the Jungles of Panama; Find gives hope of a sustainable population, but there’s still work to be done --

FEBRUARY 10, 2011: Search for Endangered Frog is on as Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Heads Back to the Jungles of Panama

MARCH 9, 2010: KRCC News Article - Fighting the Amphibian Armageddon

DECEMBER 8, 2009: Panama Travel Journal - Trip #2
View blog entries from Panama trip #2.
Check out Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's Frog Blog.

DECEMBER 4, 2009: Amphibian Rescue expedition discovers Chytrid fungus on rescued frogs in Panama.
View the latest press release.
Download the Amphibian Conservation and Rescue Program - Panama East, Immediate Response Plan

NOVEMBER 2009: Zoo President, Bob Chastain on Nov. 13-21, along with a group of conservationists went deep into the jungles of Panama to collect living specimens of frogs not yet thought to be in the death grip of the chytrid fungus.

View daily blog entries from Panama.

Tweet with Bob and his team.

Follow updates from Panama on Facebook.

Though there hasn’t been nearly as much attention on the worldwide amphibian crisis as there was this past spring, it has not gone away. The unrelenting chytrid fungus continues to creep around the globe, killing off millions of amphibians and rendering many species extinct. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is now prepared to mount the first “on the ground” expedition to Panama.

  • Five representatives from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and led by our President/CEO Bob Chastain, will embark for Panama on Friday, November 13 - 21.
  • The expedition will go deep into the jungles of Panama and collect living specimens of frogs not yet in the death grip of this insidious fungus.
  • Four days will be in the rainforest working with other individuals from the Amphibian Conservation and Rescue Project’s participating institutions, in hopes of gathering and safeguarding numerous frog species from the chytrid fungus.
  • Other times, the expedition will be at the “safehouse” established by the project partners, gaining more information about the crisis and its effects on Panama’s and the world’s amphibian populations.
  • Daily installments on our Zoo blog about the progress of the expedition, along with whatever photography and/or video that can be transmitted back to us from the wilds of Panama are planned, along with Twitter and Facebook access.
  • Check out this Panama expedition map below. Point A is Cerro Brewster, where base camp will be. The team has to hike in 6 hours from Panama City with pack horses and set up camp. They will begin frog collections from base camp on Monday, November 16 and continue through to Thursday, November 19. Cerro Brewster is located on some very steep mountainous slopes. With the rainy season in full swing, traversing the steep, muddy slopes should be a challenge for the team.

    View Larger Map

SPRING 2009: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo responded to the worldwide amphibian crisis by partnering with some renowned national and international conservation leaders to make a difference for frogs that have not yet been killed by a creeping fungus that is encircling the globe and endangering the very existence of amphibians on the planet. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a founding member of the Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, partnering with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Zoo New England, Houston Zoo, Africam Safari in Mexico, the Summit Municipal Park in Panama, Defenders of Wildlife and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to establish an amphibian conservation center in Panama to house and facilitate research on 15-20 species that are greatly in jeopardy of being wiped out by the chytrid fungus.

2008: This year was designated internationally as "The Year of the Frog" to increase global awareness of the amphibian crisis and to kick off wide-ranging amphibian conservation efforts. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Campaign to Save Amphibians continues as major conservation effort to address the amphibian extinction crisis. Cheyenne Mountain zoo sent staff to the AZA's Amphibian Biology and Management course in 2008 and we are expanding our capacity in order to take on the captive management and breeding of a third threatened amphibian.

Amphibians in the News Archives:

Amphibians are one of the five classes of vertebrate life on earth.

In recent years biologists have documented abrupt declines and extinctions of amphibian species. The phenomenon is dramatic and unprecedented. Here is what is known about amphibians' future:

  • Almost 1/3 (32%) of the world's amphibian species are now threatened with extinction; compared to 12% of all bird and 23% of all mammal species.
  • Since 1980, at least 122 species appear to have gone extinct.
  • Habitat loss is the greatest threat to amphibians, impacting almost 90% of threatened species.
  • Environmental pollutants take a heavy toll on amphibian life.
  • A rapidly spreading fungal disease, chytridiomycosis (chytrid), can cause catastrophic mortality in amphibian populations, which can quickly result in the extinction of many species.
  • Global warming can accelerate the spread of chytrid fungus.

Most endangered species are struggling with habitat loss and pollution, which are now compounded by new challenges of climate change and invasive non-native species. Threatened amphibians face these, too, but they also face a unique challenge: A fungus that people unintentionally brought to new habitats, with devastating consequences. It's called chytrid fungus and wherever it arrives, currently Central America, it kills about 80% of the amphibians within a year. 

In the face of spreading chytrid contamination experts agree that the only hope of saving some of the more endangered species is to collect animals from remaining wild populations and establish captive breeding programs. We hope to be able to reintroduce them to the wild in the future, if the threats to their survival can be removed.

Amphibians and Our Health

Amphibians, with their thin, breathable skin and sensitive life stages, act as "canaries in the coal mine".  Their health indicates the health of the ecosystem in which they, and we, reside.  They warn us when our environment, especially water quality, has quietly deteriorated and may threaten our own health.  Studies show that amphibians world-wide are ailing and dying at an alarming rate.  Perhaps we should pay attention.

Since their skin is so sensitive, amphibians have developed a wide variety of skin secretions that kill microbes and viruses. Many of these substances show promise for use in human medicine. For instance- three have demonstrated an ability to inhibit HIV infection and others are effective against cancer.

Frogs and toads also act as exterminators, controlling populations of insects such as mosquitoes, which may carry the deadly West Nile Virus and Malaria. This is not simply an amphibian problem, but a human welfare issue. We need to act quickly to save the amphibians and the ecosystems that support them and provide us with the clean drinking water and clean air that many take for granted.

The Amphibian Ark

While habitat conservation is essential; it is not sufficient.  Protected areas alone can not protect amphibians from a growing array of threats; they require zoos to save them from certain extinction. 

There is a global effort among zoos, aquariums and other conservation organizations to rescue wild amphibians before it is too late. We have united in our concerns to form an Amphibian Ark to safe guard as many species as possible while the threats to their wild existence are confronted.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has been helping endangered amphibians for many years.  We house, in our off-display Amphibian Propagation Unit, a breeding population of Wyoming toads. The Wyoming toad is extinct in the wild, but has been rescued by zoos and is being repatriated to some of its former habitat in Wyoming.  Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has produced over 1,000 Wyoming toad tadpoles and released them back to the wild.

We also house the Boreal Toad which is threatened in Colorado. We are conducting a long term identification study to help with monitoring the wild populations.

What Can You Do?

Save Their Habitat

Help Them Live

  • Instead of taking frogs from the wild, watch them in nature and let them continue their important work in the wild.
  • Don't release frog pets to the wild, you could release a disease, instead call the Zoo.
  • Sign the online petition to save amphibians,
  • Support your Zoo's efforts by donating or volunteering.

Learn and Share Your Concern