2008 has been designated the "Year of the Frog" by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Joining this effort to educate the public about the global amphibian crisis, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Friends of the National Zoo have planned several frog-themed programs for the year.
Amphibians are rapidly declining worldwide. More than one-third of the approximately 6,000 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, with habitat loss and disease being two of the main causes. Zoos and aquaria are playing a big role in helping to reverse this trend.
"As leaders in wildlife conservation, amphibian animal husbandry and education, in addition to having millions of people visit every year at the Zoo and through our Web site, we are committed to building a brighter future for our planet's amphibians," said National Zoo Director John Berry.
One critically endangered species sustained by the National Zoo is the Panamanian golden frog. This species was driven to extinction in the wild by the parasitic chytrid fungus, which causes neurological damage and death. The National Zoo is one of five zoos in North America to have a significant breeding program for this species—having reared more than 200 Panamanian golden frogs to date—and is only one of nine zoos with this beautiful species on exhibit.
"Year of the Frog" programs include the following:
- Exhibit on how toxins enter the environment and their affect on frogs
- Leap Day (February 29) theatrical event for elementary school students
- Earth Day focus on importance of clean water to amphibians
- ZooFari, Guppy Gala, Boo at the Zoo and other special events will have a frog theme
- Special summer camp sessions, science workshops and other public programs
- Amphibian-themed merchandise
The National Zoo's Web site will be updated regularly throughout the year to publicize the latest "Year of the Frog" programs and events and offer ways that the public can get involved in amphibian conservation.