LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Feb. 29, 2008 — To celebrate Leap Day, February 29, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will kick off a series of frog-focused activities to promote conservation and raise awareness of the serious decline in amphibian populations. Activities include a frog-leap, (not a leap frog) that challenges children to see if they can jump as far as frogs, a mini-parade featuring amphibian-masked guests, and a special frog-calling game where guests match the frog to the corresponding “ribbit.”
Members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums are celebrating 2008 as the Year of the Frog, to highlight amphibian extinction. According to some estimates, as many as one-third of the known amphibian species may be threatened by extinction because of loss of habitat, climate change, pollution and disease.
Frogs and amphibians play an essential role in the ecosystems of the world and are keenly attuned to changes in the environment due to their semi aquatic lifestyle and permeable skin. Scientists and researchers consider them an “indicator” species, meaning they can provide early warning for endangered ecosystems.
Frogs provide valuable scientific and medical benefits to humans. Many frogs produce toxins which may be studied for use as medicines. The skin of amphibians contains substances that can protect them from some microbes and viruses, which can offer possible medical cures for a variety of human diseases, including AIDS.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, members of the Animal Programs team are studying the nutritional needs of the Puerto Rican Crested Toad, a species native to Puerto Rico where it is threatened by extinction. The study will help conservationists determine alternate habitat where food is abundant for them. Researchers are also studying the amphibian population in our backyard – Disney’s Wildlife Management and Conservation Area.
The goal is to engage guests in conservation efforts to help them protect more frogs and amphibians in their hometowns. Some of the suggestions include:
· Build a pond with native shrubs, or provide an overturned pot, small areas of leaf litter, logs, and dirt piles to benefit amphibians.
· Get an amphibian field guide to learn which amphibians live in an area.
· Find books on frogs and discover why they sing loudly, hear well, and stay up late.
· Visit a local pond or nature park and listen for the calls of different frog species.
· Use less chemical pesticides to keep amphibians healthy.
· Observe the variety and behaviors of frogs by just looking; allow them to continue their important work
· Remember that the chemicals from soaps and lotions can hurt their delicate skin if they’re touched.