Exhibit: The Future of Frogs
As the world’s frogs vanish at an alarming rate, a few species will appear at the Oregon Zoo Sept. 20 in a temporary exhibit designed to teach the public about the perils faced by amphibian populations everywhere.
“FROGS!” will run through ZooLights (Dec. 28) and will feature several different species from around the world. It will also explain what’s happening to amphibians in the wild and why they are dying out so rapidly.
“As many as 165 amphibian species may be extinct,” says Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vecchio. “Without an immediate intervention, one-third to one-half of the world’s amphibian species could become extinct in our lifetime. This would constitute an extinction comparable to that of the dinosaurs.”
Frogs are considered sentinel animals, which means they are among the first to show the impact of environmental contaminants and climate changes. Their decline serves as a warning sign to other species, including humans.
In addition to pollution and loss of habitat, amphibian populations worldwide are being decimated by chytridiomycosis, an infectious disease caused by the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). The fungus has rapidly spread from Africa to other parts of the world, including the Pacific Northwest.
The exhibit will offer a look at the Oregon spotted frog, which has captured the attention of conservationists as the most threatened frog in the region.
Not only has it been affected by pollution and the loss of wetlands, but it has become the prey of the American bullfrog, a larger species native to the eastern and midwestern United States that was introduced here in the early 1900s.
This year the Oregon Zoo, in conjunction with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Zoo and Aquarium Alliance, has launched a captive-rearing and release program in an attempt to restore Oregon spotted frog populations and keep the species from extinction.
“FROGS!” will feature examples of both the Oregon spotted frog and the American bullfrog.
Other frogs on display will include the brightly colored poison dart frog, native to Central and South America, which secretes toxins from its skin that are foul-tasting to predators. Three highly toxic species of poison dart frogs were used by indigenous people to poison the tips of blowgun darts.
The Vietnamese mossy frog is covered with bumps, spines and tubercles, helping it blend in with moss and lichen to avoid predators. This species’
camouflage has been called the most elaborate in the animal kingdom.
White’s tree frog, native to Australia, was one of the first amphibian species documented in the discovery of the deadly chytrid fungus. In dry conditions, it can surround itself with a cocoon of dead skin and mucus and burrow to keep moist.
The exhibit is in conjunction with the Association of Zoo and Aquariums’
Year of the Frog, which began on Leap Day as a way to engage the public in conservation efforts and draw attention to the amphibian crisis.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Washington’s pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot butterflies, Oregon spotted frogs and western pond turtles. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo opens at 8 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63.
Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive $1 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.
General admission is $9.75 (12-64), seniors $8.25 (65+), children $6.75 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.