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For Immediate Release
February 29, 2008
For More Information:
Katie Gray
Supervisor, Public Relations
(416) 392-5941


"Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents one of the
greatest species conservation challenges in the history of humanity."
(Norris, 2007)

Friday, February 29, 2008, Toronto: Today the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums officially launched 2008 Year of the Frog in answer to the growing worldwide amphibian crisis. Speakers at this pivotal event included the Honourable Donna H. Cansfield, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and MPP for Etobicoke Centre, Bill Peters, National Director of the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), Councillor Raymond Cho, Chair Toronto Zoo Board of Management, Robin Hale, Acting CEO of the Toronto Zoo, and Bob Johnson, Toronto's Zoo's Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians.

After thriving for 360 million years, one third to one half of the world's known amphibian species could go extinct in our lifetime, resulting in the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Amphibians worldwide are being attacked by a lethal combination of climate change, disappearing habitat and over harvesting - but the most dangerous threat is a killer chytrid fungus originating in South Africa and spreading rapidly through Asia, Central and South America and now through the U.S. and into Canada. There is no known cure for the fungus in the wild.

If unchecked, these threats could kill one third to one half of the world's 6000 amphibian species within our lifetime. The fungus itself, once embedded in a population, will kill up to 80% of a species in a very short time, leaving the remaining animals below the survival threshold and subject to complete extinction.

The Honourable Donna H. Cansfield, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and MPP for Etobicoke Centre discussed Ontario's new Species at Risk legislation, and how this supports the Year of the Frog campaign.

"CAZA is participating in an international campaign by zoos and aquariums to rescue some 500 threatened amphibian species," noted Bill Peters. The organization's special contribution will be to initiate a program to save the five Canadian species most at risk.

Councillor Raymond Cho, Chair, Toronto Zoo Board of Management spoke about the Zoo's ongoing commitment to amphibian conservation. There are numerous amphibian rescue programs the Toronto Zoo has managed for the past 20 years, including Adopt-A-Pond, Wetland Restoration, FROGWATCH, and reintroduction programs for various amphibian species, including the endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toad.

"The Toronto Zoo" commented Bob Johnson, Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, "is committed to its ongoing research and conservation in connection with the Puerto Rican Crested Toad Species Survival Plan (SSP) and to working with Canadian and international partners to conserve amphibian species at risk of extinction. Since the initiation of the Toronto Zoo's Puerto Rican crested toad captive breeding program in 1986, it has returned over 52,000 of these animals, once thought to be extinct, to the wild.

"In common with other zoos," notes Johnson, "we're giving attention to important husbandry and breeding to maintain species extinct in the wild or close to extinction. Frogs rescued from the deadly chytrid fungus that kills them in the wild are held in isolation to prevent extinction, while scientists and researchers in countries with the fungus work to save the habitat".

"There are no hopeless cases in wildlife conservation …… just people without hope."
(Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians)