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Published: Monday, 10/15/2007

Zoo trying to protect amphibians from fungi


The Toledo Zoo may soon help save salamanders falling prey to the same worldwide fungal infection killing frogs.

R. Andrew Odum, Toledo Zoo herpetology curator, says the zoo will expand its efforts toward amphibian rescue in an attempt to address the threatened worldwide disappearance of frogs and salamanders when it completes construction of four biosecure amphibian enclosures in the zoo's museum building in the spring.

"The more we know, the more dismal some of the information is," Mr. Odum said.

"We're seeing that salamanders are now being impacted to some degree.

"Researchers are going back to areas [that had] enormous numbers of salamanders," places where salamanders, by their sheer numbers, outweighed every other animal in the ecosystem, "and they're gone completely," he said.

While there have been reports of disappearing salamander populations in Mexico and Central America for a few years, it had been uncertain if the salamander decline was associated with the chytrid fungus that's killing frogs.

As part of that effort to thwart global extinction of frogs and salamanders, the Toledo Zoo hosts the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' amphib-ian workshop this week, which draws zookeepers from throughout the United States, and often from Central and South America.

The workshop, which began yesterday, helps keepers prepare to house animals rescued from the wild. This is the third time the Toledo Zoo has played host to the workshop, which ends Friday.

Toledo has considerable experience with amphibian rescue, Mr. Odum said.

Toledo plays a pivotal role in maintaining populations of the Kihansi spray toad, an animal discovered in Tanzania just before its habitat was destroyed by the construction of a dam.

A World Bank project planned to restore the habitat will use Toledo-born spray toads to re-establish wild populations.

Representatives of Tanzania planned to attend the amphibian conference, but were unable to attain travel visas in time.

They probably will attend a spring amphibian workshop in Toledo, which has a waiting list, Mr. Odum said.

The spray toads will be among the species to occupy the biosecure areas under construction.

Wyoming toads and salamanders also will occupy the new enclosures.

Contact Jenni Laidman at: jenni@theblade.com or 419-724-6507.

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