Conservationists Trying to Save, Reproduce Endangered Frogs
Zulima Palacio | Panama
Forty percent of all the frogs in the world are in danger of extinction, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Pollution, pesticides, climate change and now a fungus are taking a toll on this diverse group of amphibians. Until recently, the central rain forest of Panama was rich in frog species. Smithsonian conservationist Brian Gratwicke is directing a campaign to save and reproduce in captivity some of the world's most endangered frogs.
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Sierra Llorona is a tropical rainforest in Central Panama. It's rich in all sorts of flora and fauna, especially frogs.
That's what Brian Gratwicke and his team are looking for. He works for the Smithsonian Institution and heads the Amphibian Rescue Project in Panama.
"Frogs are disappearing all over the world," said Gratwicke."About 40 percent of all of the species that we have sufficient data for, and determined their conservation status, are in danger of extinction."
The group follows the creek for a few hours in search of wild frogs.Jorge Alberto Gonzalez, their guide, is trained in capturing even the tiniest frogs in the jungle.
But it's getting difficult to find them.Scientists estimate that 120 species of frogs have vanished over the past 20 years. Most were wiped out by a disease known as Chytrid fungus.
Gratwicke takes a cotton swab and wipes this frog's feet and stomach to collect samples for analysis.He's looking for signs of the fungus that in recent years has killed nearly 80 percent of the mountain frogs in Central America and is now spreading to warmer, lower regions.
"What we are trying to do with the Panama Amphibian Rescue Project is to go out into western Panama, before the disease hits, and collect as many frogs as we can of the species that we think would go extinct, and once we get the frogs into captivity we'll try to breed them," Gratwicke explained.
Gratwicke is also a skilled photographer.He photographs every frog he captures for an amphibian project on the web.
Now, in a park near Panama City, the Smithsonian team has established temporary facilities for the captured frogs.Inside shipping containers, about 200 frogs are kept healthy in the lead up to breeding them.
"Here we have a La Loma tree frog," Gratwicke said."It's a beautiful green tree frog that has a slight orange eye stripe and is very sensitive to Chytridia Micosis.It ranges from Costa Rica all the way to Colombia."
Gratwicke says the fungus can only be treated in captivity.This harlequin frog (see picture) is native only to Central Panama.
"By the time we started our project, Chytridium had already hit Panama and it wiped out a lot of these frogs," Gratwicke recalled."So these ones are very rare now in the wild, their population crashed. This is a very rare frog on the brink of extinction."
Keeping frogs healthy in captivity is not easy.The challenge is to produce food that has not been contaminated by the fungus.They also produce cockroaches and worms. In a separate location is a frog's favorite meal: fruit flies in almost all sizes.
"If you see in this coconut fiber this tiny little white specks crawling around, those are the springtails," noted Gratwicke."It's the smallest food we can cultivate and that's what the baby frogs eat."
Back in Washington DC, at the National Zoo, some Panamanian golden frogs are being kept alive.
"This particular species, Panama's national animal, is highly endangered.We think they are probably extinct in the wild. So these are probably some of the last animals of the species left in the world," Gratwicke said.
Today more than 2,000 Panamanian golden frogs have been reproduced in captivity across the US.
Why are frogs so important? Gratwicke says frogs are in the middle of the food chain: they eat insects and they are food for many larger animals.
For humans, scientists believe frog skin contains chemicals that can lead to medical breakthroughs.
So far, the campaign to rescue frogs has established safety for four species in Panama.The team hopes to find a cure for the deadly fungus and one day release the healthy frogs back into the rain forest.
in danger of sth (prep phr) 處於 . . . 危險
extinction (n) 滅絕;消滅
in danger of extinction 就是「頻臨絕種」，文中還有on the brink of extinction，意思是在「絕種的邊緣」
take a toll on sth (v phr) 損失、犧牲；讓 . . . 付出代價
captivity (n) 囚禁；被俘
endangered (a) 快要絕種的
美國史密斯森研究中心 (Smithsonian Institution)指出，世界上百分之四十的青蛙都處於絕種的危機 (in danger of extinction)。除了環境汙染、殺蟲劑 (pesticides)、氣候變遷(climate change)等因素，現在還加上一種黴菌(fungus)，幾乎要消滅這個物種多樣的兩棲類動物 (this diverse group of amphibians)。Brian Gratwicke是史密斯森研究中心的保育員(conservationist)，正主導一個計畫(campaign)，希望在使用人工圈養的方式，繁殖 (reproduce in captivity) 將要絕種的青蛙。
flora (n) 植物群
fauna (n) 動物群
sufficient (a) 足夠的,充分的
creek (n) 小河,溪
vanish (v) 消逝；絕跡
be wiped out ( v phr) 被消滅；徹底摧毀
sample (n) 樣本
Sierrra Llorona是中巴拿馬的熱帶雨林 (tropical rainforest)，有豐富的動植物族群 (rich in all sorts of flora and fauna)。也因此，Brian Gratwicke領導「搶救巴拿馬兩棲類計畫」(. . . heads the Amphibian Rescue Project in Panama)，他的團隊在這裡找尋瀕臨絕種的野生生青蛙。根據他的說法，以現有對部份蛙種已經充份掌握的資料(sufficient data)，可以評估各種青蛙的保育狀態(conservation status)，而世界上大約有百分之四十的青蛙正面臨絕種命運。
Brian Gratwicke帶導一行人溯溪(creek)，尋找(in search of)野生青蛙。但要找到野生蛙不是件容易事，科學家認為有120個蛙種 (species)，在過去的二十年間已經失去蹤跡 (vanished)，大多是被一種名為Chytrid黴菌(fungus)的疾病所消滅的 (. . . were wiped out)。Brian Gratwicke使用棉花棒 (cotton swab)在青蛙的腳跟腹部採集樣本，作為分析之用 (samples for analysis)。
temporary (a) 暫時的
facility (n) 設施；場所
in the lead up to (n) 導致；為 . . . 鋪路，做準備
native (a) 特有的；原產的
某地特有的，搭配介詞 to使用，如 sth is native to Taiwan，即台灣特有之意
contaminate (v) 弄髒；污染；毒害
speck (n) 斑點；微粒
Brian Gratwicke指出，計畫的目的是要在傳染病侵襲之前 (before the disease hits)，盡可能收集可能滅絕的蛙種，捕捉到後，就進而繁殖(breed)這些種類 。史密斯森研究中心團隊在靠近巴拿馬市有暫時收容的設施(temporary facilities)，安置被捕的青蛙(captured frogs)，在繁衍之前，要保持青蛙的健康狀態。
要圈養青蛙不是容易的事。第一個挑戰就是要製造未被黴菌所汙染的食物 (. . .not been contaminated by the fungus)。團隊要製造蟑螂跟蟲子，還有青蛙最愛的食物---各種體型的果蠅 (fruit flies in almost all sizes)。Brian Gratwicke指著一團椰子纖維(coconut fiber)說，上面爬動的小白點(specks)是躍尾蟲(springtails)，是他們可培養(cultivate)的體型最小的食物，用來給青蛙寶寶吃的。
目前為止，救蛙行動(campaign to rescue frogs)已經成功確保了(established safety)四個巴拿馬的蛙種。團隊也希望可以為這致命的黴菌找到解藥 (find a cure)，終有一天可以把健康的青蛙們放回雨林。