Amphibians today are emblematic of how an entire group of animals can be overwhelmed by threats to its survival.
They are disappearing faster than other endangered animals because of their vulnerability to several compounding factors.
In some cases, species are disappearing faster than they can be discovered, particularly in Central and South America. Threats to amphibians include:
- habitat destruction, thought to be the biggest threat,
- introduced and invasive species that outcompete native amphibians for resources and habitat,
- development that clears wetlands and forests and causes runoff into waterways,
- a fungal disease, chytridiomycosis, that within thirty years has caused the catastrophic decline or extinction of at least 200 species,
- climate change,
- and the pet trade, which is decreasing in impact now that it is becoming better regulated and managed through captive breeding.
A Success Story
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and other institutions and agencies, like the National Park Service, are doing conservation work to protect amphibians and help rebuild their populations.
Breeding programs have helped to restore a species of giant salamander called hellbenders and bolster the critically endangered yellow-legged frog native to Southern California mountains. These programs breed the animals in zoos and aquariums then release them back into their native habitats in the wild.