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haiti frog Photo courtesy Philadelphia Zoo

Haiti's Frogs Hospitalized

The Philadelphia Zoo hopes to save endangered amphibians

By Chloe Jones | January 6 , 2011

Frogs could soon become the latest victims of last year's earthquake in Haiti. Some 92 per cent of Haiti's 50 frog species are now in danger of becoming extinct. The Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania has stepped in to help save at least nine of those species.

The frogs were in trouble before the earthquake. At one time, most of the country was covered with forest. Now, only 1 per cent of Haiti's forests remain. The forests have been cut down for lumber, farmland, and charcoal. The earthquake further endangered animals living in the forest by contaminating the water. Diseases also increased, killing more frogs and other amphibians.

Recently, a scientist from the zoo traveled to Haiti and collected 154 frogs representing nine different endangered species. The frogs now live at the zoo where it is hoped they will breed and multiply.

"These frogs are unique to their area in Haiti; they are found nowhere else in the world," said Jason Bell, the Manager of the Reptile and Amphibian building at the Philadelphia Zoo. "They are susceptible to water quality and different environmental factors, which makes them delicate, which makes them unique."

The frogs are all in quarantine, or hospital, as Bell calls it.

"They'll be in the hospital for at least another 60 days if they are all completely free of disease," he said. "If we find out there's something we need to take care of, it might take longer. It all depends on their overall health. Right now their health is stable and everything seems to be pretty good."

The biggest challenge to the zoo is to recreate the habitat and climate of each species, which come from different areas. Some like it warmer, while others need cooler temperatures. The zoo uses heaters and air conditioners to replicate the climates.

"We also have water systems, called a rain system, which can mist or rain on the animals," Bell said. "We've done what we could to recreate the ecosystems."

Some of the frogs the zoo is working to save have names bigger than they are: Eleutherodactylus amadeus, Eleutherodactylus aporostegus, Eleutherodactylus apostates, Eleutherodactylus bakeri, and Eleutheroductylus brevirostris for example.

Currently, the zoo has had the biggest success with a species called Eleutherodactylus caribe. These frogs are hatching eggs and thriving in their new home.

The overall goal is to establish large numbers of each species and maybe work with other zoos or other labs to learn more about them. In the future, they will be released back into the wild in Haiti.

CRISIS IN HAITI: ONE YEAR LATER

More than a million people remain homeless and schools are just now being rebuilt in Haiti a year after the country's capital city was devastated by a major earthquake on January 12, 2010. Scholastic Kid Reporters continue their reporting on the earthquake with stories about how people are continuing to help the embattled country in the Crisis in Haiti: One Year Later Special Report.

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