There is a killer disease that is quickly spreading throughout the population, and most people have never even heard of it. That is probably because it is not killing off humans, but rather frogs. The killer is a fungal disease called chytrid, and it is spreading at 20 miles a year in Central America.
Over the past 30 years according to PSI’s The World, more than 100 species of frogs have gone extinct. Some of that is believed to be because of climate change and habitat loss, but the majority is said to have disappeared because of chytrid.
Scientists in Panama are working quickly to collect frogs in the wild to keep them from becoming extinct. This has led to them creating pods that reflect each individual species’ environment. Angie Estrada, who works at the Summit Zoo, in Gamboa, Panama said, “We call them arks, amphibian arks, because we’re basically keeping them alive for future generations.”
This has not only meant that scientists have had to work extremely fast to collect them from chytrid, which is supposedly spreading really fast among frog species, but they have also had to learn how to take care of them. Edgardo Griffith, who runs the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Western Panama, said that “a lot” were lost as scientists had to learn what to feed each species and how to get them to mate.
Some people may not understand why frogs are so important. Personally, as someone who loves amphibians (especially turtles) no convincing is needed, but for others they might find it interesting to know what uses frogs have. The Smithsonian’s Brian Gratwicke stated that there is an Australian species that produces a chemical called asirin that can keep HIV transmissions from T-cells. Another species can kill “superbugs” in hospitals.
His last reason makes the most sense. Frogs are a vital importance in the circle of life or food chain. Frogs eat insects and birds and snakes eat frogs. By protecting them, scientists can figure out how to kill off chytrid, and then release the frogs back into the wild.