Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Amphibians on display at Zoo Negara

ZOO Negara has renewed its study on frogs to educate the public on the importance of their preservation.

The declining population, said zoologist Dr Mohamad Ngah, is something that everyone should be concerned about.

“Frogs are the frontline indicators of the environmental conditions because they breathe through their skin. If the environment is not suitable for them, then it will not be suitable for us too,” he said.

Serious studies: Dr Mohamed Reza examining a toad closely.

The scientist also cited examples of rising dengue cases being linked to the depletion of the frog population.

“Some species of frogs feed on mosquitoes but because their numbers have decreased due to poaching, habitat destruction and pollution; the pests have multiplied, “ he pointed out.

Another cause for concern is the baffling destruction of frog species caused by the onset of chytridiomycosis, a fungi specie thought to only feed on dead frogs.

However, in 2000, scientists discovered that the fungus had mutated into feeding on the skin of living amphibians.

According to Dr. Mohamad, chytridiomycosis caused 50% of frogs to go extinct worldwide and the fastest rate of destruction of a species documented.

The current hot spot for chytridiomycosis is Japan where the entire frog population of one of its islands has been completely wiped out. It is not known if the disease had reached Malaysian shores .

Diverse creatures: Some(above and below right) of the 18 species of frogs currently at Zoo Negara .

Dr Mohamed said the purpose of the current frog programme at Zoo Negara is to identify the different species of local frogs, including their life cycle and how to breed them.

On the successful completion of this phase, the veterinarians will then work on researching the endangered species, induce them to mate within their microclimates and hopefully release their young back into the ecosystem.

“In South East Asia, Zoo Negara is the first to embark on such a programme.

“Our goal is to attain knowledge first and the time will come when we will be up to a level where in the case of an outbreak (of frog annihilating diseases), we will be ready with a rapid response team,” he said.

In addition to knowing the frog species, the programme is also aimed to educate the public about the effects of pollution.

“I hope this will bring about an awareness for the public to stop throwing rubbish into the streams,” he concluded.

The frog project is currently under the care of veterinarian Dr Mohamed Reza Tarmizi, 26. There are 18 species of frogs presently residing in Zoo Negara.

In Malaysia, there are 200 known species of amphibians including frogs, toads and caecilians.

The exhibits will be on display during Zoo Negara’s opening hours.

Originally published in The Star on Thursday February 21, 2008

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