Frogs in Glass Boxes: Responses of Zoos to Global Amphibian Extinctions

Joseph R. Mendelson III

in The Ark and Beyond

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2018 | ISBN: 9780226538327
Published online September 2018 | e-ISBN: 9780226538631 | DOI:
Frogs in Glass Boxes: Responses of Zoos to Global Amphibian Extinctions

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As modern zoos were evolving to substantiate their claims to be leading conservation organizations in the late twentieth century, amphibians were succumbing to conservation challenges of unimaginable proportions. A previously unknown pathogenic fungus was moving among continents and, in some cases, eradicating populations and species virtually instantly. This phenomenon went mostly unnoticed until about 1990, when scientists and conservationists scrambled for answers, or even the relevant questions, and suitable responses. Amphibians have never been prominent in zoo programs or exhibits, so the coincidental timing of the upswing of conservation rhetoric from zoos and what was acknowledged as the most drastic large-scale animal conservation crisis in history created a maelstrom of confusion and controversy. Being understandably unprepared for a conservation challenge of unprecedented proportions, the response of zoos ranged from unfulfilled promises to valiant, if unsuccessful, efforts to establishment of successful programs. More broadly, the disease-driven declines of amphibians is a case study for zoos and conservationists to consider in face of the ever increasing reports of devastating emerging infectious diseases as direct-drivers of extinction in wildlife. It is clear to no one, including zoos, what are the best responses to these situations.

Keywords: amphibian declines; amphibian conservation; zoos; emerging infectious diseases

Chapter.  4416 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biodiversity and Conservation Biology

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