According to many conservation scientists, amphibians may be facing extinction. Amphibians are an essential part of the food chain, as they are top insectivores and prey for other animals; numerous medicines use ingredients extracted from amphibians, and new ingredients keep being discovered.
Such amphibian class representatives as frogs, salamanders and caecilians have been on the decline for some time. Pollution, global warming and habitat destruction from human development have been devastating: water and land have become dangerous places to inhabit, filled with acidic toxins from industries and pesticides used in farming; large amounts of lead coming from car exhaust are deposited in ponds and lakes. Rising temperatures disrupt breeding and hibernation patterns making amphibians more vulnerable to weather changes and more susceptible to disease.
Every year, hundreds of millions of frogs are killed, their legs exported and consumed worldwide. As a result, collapses of frog populations in Europe and North America are being followed by declines in India and Bangladesh and now potentially Indonesia. Losses of these insect eaters have meant significantly increased use of insecticides, at a cost often higher than the revenue from frog leg exports. The added environmental costs adds insult to injury.
More losses are suffered because amphibians are often kept as pets, often in stressful conditions; it is not uncommon that they are get flushed down the toilet when kids grow tired of them.
In addition to human influence, a newly identified parasitic fungus (chytrid fungus) is speeding up the demise of amphibians worldwide. The fungus coats the frog’s skin and makes its pores non-functional; clogged pores make it difficult to breathe and as a result, the frog dies from dehydration. Multi-million dollar projects have been launched worldwide to capture and treat groups of amphibians before release back into the wild. At this moment, only experimental treatments have been applied, with little success in improving the survival rates; no perfect treatment has been found as of yet.
Why should we care?