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Extinction Countdown

Extinction Countdown

News and research about endangered species from around the world

U.K. zoo builds a "love shack" for critically endangered frogs

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leaf frogWhat does it take to encourage endangered species to breed? In the case of two frog species living at Bristol Zoo Gardens in England it takes creating a very special environment, and not just one that plays romantic music.

Bristol Zoo just finished building AmphiPod, a high-tech facility that "will allow us to adjust the temperature, humidity and day length to create the perfect conditions to encourage the frogs to breed," said Tim Skelton, the zoo's curator of reptiles, in a prepared statement.

In addition to mimicking the frogs' natural habitat, AmphiPod will also help to protect them against disease, including the deadly chytrid fungus that is rapidly devastating frog populations around the world.

The frogs taking up residence in the new "love shack" are the lemur leaf frog (Hylomantis lemur) from Panama and Costa Rica and Madagascar's golden mantella frog (Mantella aurantiaca). According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the leaf frog has lost 80 percent of its population in the past 10 years, mostly due to the chytrid fungus. The mantella frog lives in a tiny habitat less than 10 square kilometers in size, which is rapidly being destroyed along with most of Madagascar's biodiversity-rich forests. Additional species may join the AmphiPod frogs in the future if the zoo habitat successfully inspires breeding, Skelton said.

Raising funds to build AmphiPod took nearly a year. Bristol Zoo says it still needs around $45,000 to run the facility for the next three years.

Image: Lemur leap frog, via Bristol Zoo Gardens

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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