Leaping to Their Aid

As amphibians continue to decline faster than any other group of vertebrates, Smithsonian scientists and their partners work together to save them.

A few years ago, while rescuing frogs in Panama, Smithsonian National Zoo biologist Matt Evans and his colleagues were in a pinch. After removing the amphibians from the path of a deadly microscopic fungus also known as chytrid, they had no place to hold the rescued frogs while an evacuation center was built. So what did they do? What any resourceful scientist would do: put them up in a hotel.

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Evans, who at the time worked for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, went to Panama as part of a rapid response team that was helping save a number of species in the path of the dangerous fungus. “We had to act quickly,” Evans says. “Chytrid was already devastating some of the area’s amphibian population, so we targeted specific species in specific localities.

After they caught the frogs, Evans and his associates tested them for the fungus and then brought them to a hotel near the El Valle de Antón region of Panama. The hotel actually donated a few of its rooms and a holding facility for the cause. “It was an amazing sight to see all these rare frogs together in a few rooms,” says Evans. “From June to August 2005, 42 species and 624 amphibians were collected as part of this project. Most frogs were housed in individual containers prior to their trip to the United States via our carry-on luggage.”

Much more at Smithsonian ZooGoer (March/April issue)…

Kirtland Peterson

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