|National Zoo Frog Project|
Their future is in our hands
|Frogs are considered
'indicator species' because they are the first to be
affected by degradation of the environment. Their
dwindling numbers may be a warning to us that our planet
is becoming unlivable.
Over six million Australians visit zoos and wildlife parks. This highlights the importance of zoos as an education and recreation resource to the Australian community.
The Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria Inc. (ARAZPA) the regions professional zoo association recently held a workshop to determine how zoos could assist frog conservation. The outcome was the formulation of a National Zoo Frog Project.
There are four programs within the National Zoo Frog Project:. Costs for each program are per year for three years. Elements within each program can be supported separately.
A national schools education program - for primary, secondary and tertiary students. $80,000
A national community awareness program. $97,500
A national risk minimisation and captive breeding program. $85,000
A national investigative program. $35,000
The scope of the National Zoo Frog Project would allow coverage of all states and territories within Australia and incorporate both public and private institutions. It will deliver a significant public interface between visitors and zoos in promoting the conservation of frogs.
With a combination of conservation action, research and support from Australia Post we can help keep frogs hopping for another 190 million Years.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO FROGS?
Over the last several decades, amphibians around the world have been disappearing. Dozens of species have vanished entirely; others are simply becoming harder and harder to find.
Ten frog species have disappeared from Australia. Deformed frogs with missing or extra legs are turning up all over the United States.
There may be several factors working to harm the world's amphibians. Among these are climate changes, including global warming and thinning of the ozone layer. Destruction of habitat is certainly a problem; when rainforests get chopped down and marshes get filled in, frogs are left with nowhere to go. Pollution is also probably connected to the decline. Since frogs absorb water directly through their skin, they are especially vulnerable to water pollutants like pesticides and acid rain.
A recently-discovered skin fungus may also be responsible. This fungus is believed to slowly suffocate frogs by attacking the skin through which they breathe. It has been detected in the bodies of dead and dying frogs of various species from Panama to Australia. This type of fungus does not usually attack frogs, a fact which leads some scientists to think that the frogs are being weakened by other environmental stresses.
Frogs are considered 'indicator species' because they are the first to be affected by degradation of the environment. Their dwindling numbers may be a warning to us that our planet is becoming unlivable. No matter what's behind it, the disappearance of frogs is cause for concern.
WHO IS ARAZPA?
During 1997/ 98, over six million Australians visited zoos and wildlife parks (ABS, 1998). This highlights the importance of zoos as an education and recreation resource to the Australian community, and illustrates the potential for zoos to provide appropriate conservation and education messages to a vast number of Australians, as well as supporting these initiatives with direct action.
Over the last 10 years, Australias public and private zoos have worked together in order to achieve the aims of the World Zoo Conservation Strategy the key document setting out the role of the worlds zoos in global conservation (IUDZG/CBSG (IUCN/SSC), 1993).
The primary organisation in this development is the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria Inc. (ARAZPA) the regions professional zoo association. The Association has an established infrastructure and is at the forefront of global efforts to focus the cooperative resources of zoos to benefit wildlife conservation.
The Association aims to promote and maintain professional standards of operation in the zoological industry and to maximise its collective resources for the conservation of biodiversity.
The following zoological parks and aquaria in the Australasian region are those which subscribe to the Code of Ethics and Purposes of the Association:
|Adelaide Zoological Gardens, SA.||National Aquarium & Wildlife Sanctuary, ACT.|
|Alice Springs Desert Park, NT.||Napier Experience, NZ.|
|Armidale Reptile Centre, NSW.||National Capital Botanic Gardens, PNG.|
|Auckland Zoological Gardens, NZ.||National Museum and Art Gallery, PNG.|
|Australia Zoo, QLD.||Orana Park Wildlife Trust, NZ.|
|Australian Reptile Park, NSW.||Perth Zoological Gardens, WA.|
|Australian Wildlife Park, NSW.||Pet Porpoise Pool, WA.|
|Blue Gum Farm Zoo, NSW.||Rockhampton Botanic Gardens Zoo, QLD|
|Alma Park Zoo, QLD.||Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens, VIC.|
|Coffs Harbour Zoo, NSW.||Sea World, Surfers Paradise, QLD.|
|Currumbin Sanctuary, QLD.||Taronga Zoo, NSW.|
|Dreamworld, QLD.||Territory Wildlife Park, NT.|
|Gorge Wildlife Park, SA.||The Rainforest Habitat, Lae, PNG.|
|Hamilton Zoo, NZ.||Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT.|
|Healesville Sanctuary, VIC.||Trowunna Wildlife Park, TAS.|
|Johnstone River Crocodile Farm, QLD.||Underwater World, Mooloolaba, NSW.|
|Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, QLD.||Victoria's Open Range Zoo, VIC.|
|Mogo Zoo, ACT.||Wellington Zoological Gardens, NZ.|
|Monarto Wildlife Park, SA.||Western Plains Zoo, NSW.|
What is being done to save frogs?
Environment Australia commissioned the Action Plan for Australian Frogs. It provides an overview of the current conservation status of Australias frogs. It investigates the possible causes of decline and determines actions needed to prevent further losses and reverse the current trend toward frog extinctions.
The Action Plan presents recovery outlines for 27 species, 12 of which include recommendations for captive breeding. Of particular relevance to zoos are two of the Plans eight broad recommendations, ie. those relating to captive breeding and public involvement.
In May 1998, ARAZPA brought together officers from Federal and State wildlife agencies and zoos to discuss how greater conservation synergies could be developed between the two groups. The workshop was titled Directing Zoo Resources to the Species Recovery Process. This focussed particularly on linking conservation priorities of the relevant wildlife agency to the zoos' mechanisms for raising community awareness via schools and public education; captive breeding for risk minimisation; and reintroduction and collaborative investigatory studies.
This was followed by another very productive workshop, which was attended by representatives from 10 institutions. These included public aquaria, which may provide potential for significantly increasing the national capacity for frog programs of display, education and research. Arising from the workshop was a proposal to formulate a national project to support frog conservation in Australia.
The National Zoo Frog Project is a specific outcome of this workshop. It reflects key recommendations from the Action Plan for Australian Frogs.
NATIONAL ZOO FROG PROJECT
The aim of the National Zoo Frog Project is to effectively interlink zoos with the Action Plan for Australian Frogs the national reference document for Australian frogs endorsed by Environment Australia. The project will increase support to achieve conservation outcomes for selected species. It will focus the range of resources zoos have at their disposal and which can be applied to the species recovery process for frogs. The scope of the National Zoo Frog Project would allow coverage of all states and territories within Australia and incorporate both public and private institutions. It will deliver a significant public interface between visitors and zoos in promoting the conservation of frogs.
The primary elements of the National Zoo Frog Project are:
Key elements of the National Zoo Frog Project
1. NATIONAL SCHOOLS EDUCATION PROGRAM
Education officers in our zoos, the largest specialist teaching service in Australia, are world leaders in the development and delivery of environmental education programs. Programs are coordinated both nationally and at the global level through the International Zoo Educators Association (IZE). ARAZPA is ideally suited to address both national and state curriculum profiles where relevant. Through the zoos teaching networks they have direct access to teaching institutions and associated support groups. They can disseminate information efficiently and can provide follow-up support for programs delivered. The aim of the national education program is to integrate and deliver frog conservation education programs on all levels and across all regions of the Australian education system.
The project will cater for:
- Teachers at all levels
- Early childhood students
- Primary and junior secondary students
- College and University students
- Zoo volunteers
- Animal keepers
With sponsorship from the Australian Stock Exchange the national schools education program is called 'ASX Frog Focus'. The first challenge for ASX Frog Focus is to design a multi layered education resource to motivate and engage community members in the study of frogs and will be launched in early 2000. Zoo Educators and Environmental Educators throughout Australia are developing the resource - the first collaborative effort between Australian Zoo Educators. It will be delivered nationally through schools giving students, teachers and the wider community access to an environmental cd-rom package incorporating the latest teaching and learning methods.
A Zoo Educator based at Taronga Zoo will coordinate the development of the frog resource and Educators in all states will transfer their expertise and knowledge on frogs and act in a consultancy role to in-service teachers and assist them with implementing the ASX Frog Focus resource.
It will meet all environmental education
curriculum components and will focus on a variety of themes from
frog conservation to habitat restoration. The resource will
provide information on environmentally friendly practices from
constructing frog ponds to complicated issues like recovery
programs for frog species.
2. NATIONAL COMMUNITY AWARENESS PROGRAM
Raising the profile of current frog conservation activities and needs on a national level is the primary aim for the community awareness component of the National Zoo Frog Project. It will be accomplished by tapping into and enhancing existing programs, as well as by establishing a range of new programs that can be delivered through zoos on a national level.
Components of the community awareness program are:
- National Frog Week
- The development of a "Save the Frogs Day"
- The "Big Leap" National community frog conservation award
- "Save the Frogs" merchandise
- Skilling programs for community groups
- National Frog Conservation Displays in zoos and other venues
- Profiling on existing Frog Web pages
3. NATIONAL CAPTIVE FROG PROGRAM
Of the 27 species listed in the Action Plan for
Australian Frogs, 12 have been recommended for captive
breeding. Under the guidance of the National Threatened Frog
Group (NTFG), the captive breeding component of National Zoo Frog
Project will unite zoo resources in response to, and in support
of, specific strategies of the Action Plan for Australian
The Captive Program elements will be:
- Four primary captive breeding facilities will be established across Australia
- Captive breeding for key species will be commenced
- Deficiencies in husbandry knowledge and natural history data will be addressed.
- An increase in the allocation of spaces by zoos for display and breeding of frogs.
3. NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE PROGRAM
The primary aim of the National Investigative Program will be to oversee the zoo effort to reduce the ad hoc nature of investigative frog work in zoos, and to promote cooperative relationships between statutory and private zoos, wildlife agencies, universities and other frog interest groups.
Key components of this program will be:
- Zoo research monitoring
- Data collection
- Base line data gathering and health monitoring
- Reproductive and cryopreservation investigations
- Quarantine protocols development
- PhD student scholarships on frogs