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Earth

Scientists Build an Ark To Save Jungle Amphibians 127

Peace Corps Online writes "In the 1980s a deadly fungus called chytrid appeared in Central America and began moving through mountain streams, killing as many as 8 out of 10 frogs and extinguishing some species entirely. (The fungus has little effect on any other vertebrates.) Now a returned Peace Corps volunteer and her husband have opened the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in western Panama to house more than 600 frogs as chytrid cuts a lethal path through the region. Experts agree that the only hope of saving some of the more endangered, restricted-range species is to collect animals from remaining wild populations, establish captive breeding programs, and be prepared to conduct reintroduction projects in the future. But before reintroduction can even begin, scientists must find some way to overcome the chytrid in native habitats using vaccines, breeding for resistance, or genetic engineering of the fungus. Conservationists are budgeting for 25 years of captive breeding, long enough, they believe, to allow some response to chytrid to be found. 'There are more species in need of rescue than there are resources to rescue them,' says Amphibian Ark's program director. 'When you're talking about insidious threats like disease or climate change, threats that can't be mitigated in the wild, there's simply no alternative.'"

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