Leap Day Marks Year of the Frog

This week marks not only Leap Day but the official "leap-off" of the Year of the Frog, a global campaign aimed at protecting the endangered populations of frogs and other amphibians around the world.

Welcome to the Year of the Frog!

Year of the Frog, which officially "leaps off" this week -- Feb. 29 being Leap Day, after all -- is a global campaign aimed at helping to conserve frog and other amphibian populations around the world. The main goal is to increase public awareness about the threats to frogs and raise funds to help pay for research and conservation efforts.

Among the groups actively promoting the Year of the Frog are the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,Amphibian Ark, the World Conservation Union, the Species Survival Commission, the Amphibian Specialist Group and other zoo, aquarium and conservation groups around the globe.

"It's imperative that the world zoo and aquarium community plays an active role in working to save the planet's critically endangered amphibian species," said Karen Sausman, president of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. "As leading partners in animal conservation, it's both our obligation and our privilege to help these glorious animals.

We invite all people around the world to help amphibians survive by signing our global petition and contributing to fund this initiative."

An online petition at Amphibian Ark asks politicians and governments around the world to commit the resources needed to protect and conserve frog and amphibian populations.

Anywhere from one-third to half of all amphibian species around the world are under threat of dying out, according to Amphibian Ark. The organization said the crisis could lead to the largest mass extinction since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.

While development and loss of habitats are contributing to the frog die-off, the greatest danger comes from the chytrid fungus, an untreatable, deadly and fast-spreading condition. According to Amphibian Ark, the fungus, which might be spurred on by climate change, can infect and kill up to 80 percent of a local frog population in a matter of months.

"Without an immediate and sustained conservation effort to support captive management, hundreds of species of these wonderful creatures could become extinct in our own lifetime," said Sir David Attenborough, a patron of the 2019 Year of the Frog campaign.

"Widespread extinction of amphibians would be catastrophic," said Jeffrey P. Bonner, chairman of Amphibian Ark and president and CEO of the St. Louis Zoo. "In addition to their intrinsic value, they offer many benefits and are a critical part of a healthy world. They play an important role in the food web as both predator and prey, eating insects which benefits agriculture and minimizes disease spread.

Their skin also has substances that protect them from some microbes and viruses, offering promising medical cures for a variety of human diseases."

Numerous zoos and parks around the world are planning special events and exhibits to promote the Year of the Frog.

They include a day of "froggy fun" at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando; a Leap Day celebration on Saturday, March 1, at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo; a weekend full of frog-related activities at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo; the opening of a new amphibian exhibit at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn; a day of frog-related activities during the April 19 "Zoo Run! Run!" celebration at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas; and a variety of hands-on activities on Saturday, March 1, at the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco.