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Zoo Springs Into Action To Save Frogs

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An endangered Lemur Leaf Frog hangs out on Matt Evans' fingertip. Evans is a biologist at the National Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center.
An endangered Lemur Leaf Frog hangs out on Matt Evans' fingertip. Evans is a biologist at the National Zoo's Reptile Discovery Center.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

The National Zoo is carrying out a frog rescue operation to save amphibians from a deadly fungus that's spreading world wide.

In a misty tank at the National Zoo, some Panamanian Golden Frogs are wrestling. It's not something you'd see in the wild anymore.

"Well we're in the midst of a crisis right now," says Brian Gratwick is the amphibian conservation biologist at the National Zoo.

"There's a fungus that's wiping out a lot of the frogs around the world. We think about 90 of 122 species that have gone extinct since 1980 have gone extinct because of this fungus," he says.

Scientists think it was introduced with imported frogs from Africa. So biologists around the world are in rescue mode. National Zoo biologist Matt Evans is one of them, he just got back from the most isolated cloud forests of Panama to find frogs before the fungus does.

Some are being kept in giant shipping containers in Panama that have been converted into quarantine facilities. Others are here, in the basement, in a sterile room the zoo has tanks of it's own. Each are full of tiny, fingernail sized baby Panamanian golden frogs.

"This is basically the future of keeping this species alive in the long term," says Evans.

Until a cure is found for the fungus, this is how at least 50 species of frog will remain on the planet.

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