Northern Leopard Frogs are cute as well as ancient (360 million years old to be exact), but also endangered.
It is well known that Vancouver is a coastal city. It’s known for its hockey team, high gas prices and environmental conservation obsession. But did you know that it is also now home to dinosaurs? Well it is. The world’s first bred-in-captivity Rocky Mountain Northern Leopard Frogs were hatched earlier this week, and we have Vancouver Aquarium’s finest to thank for it.
Vancouver Aquarium is usually associated with the adorable pictures of baby seals being brushed, and coastal cleanup projects, so this new amphibian development is right out of left field for some people. Not for Dr. Dennis Thoney though, who says the facility is committed to breeding the frogs and building up the population before the amphibians become extinct in the province.
These, some say cute, little guys outlasted the dinosaurs and have been hanging around for almost 360 million years but many species are ‘croaking’ today. The Vancouver Aquarium recently opened up an exhibit featuring 26 different species of amphibians to put a spotlight on the world’s struggling frog population.
What about that west coast environmental passion, you ask? They don’t call us hippies for nothing! How about an ark, you demand? Well they have one, the AArk to be exact. Due to the ever growing decline of amphibian populations, and the ever growing numbers of endangered species, Vancouver’s aquarium has joined up with the Amphibian Ark campaign in order to raise awareness about amphibian vulnerability and rescue at least 500 of the most threatened species.
But back to the leopards, whose own populations plummeted drastically in the 1970‘s, almost guaranteeing them a spot in the prestigious extinct frogs of the past decade club (they’d be number 166 if you’re curious). According to BC Frogwatch: “The Rocky Mountain population that occurs in B.C. is listed as Endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and is on the provincial Red List. Although once found in the eastern Kootenays, the Creston Valley and the South Okanagan, Northern leopard frog populations have dwindled to the point where the two existing wild populations are presently known from only one location in B.C., in the Creston Valley. Not today though! The tadpoles were successfully hatched earlier this week, and will be released into the wild Columbia marshes near the Kootenay city of Cranbrook in the very near future. The new frogs will act as an assurance population, supplementary to the those which already exist in the wild, hopefully helping to reverse their at-risk status, and to keep our native to BC buddies alive and hopping for a few more years to come.
Scientists are still trying to understand the drop in population in the first place though, since “Amphibians are indicators of environmental health in our ecosystems, …[they] play an important role in local ecology,” says Dr. Thoney. They still have no leads, but in partnership with the world-wide AArk project, they will continue to investigate. Until then it is important to remember that “Every single species is part of an intricate web in its ecosystem, and taking a species away from that web creates an imbalance that may have negative effects on other species.” So even if they aren’t as cute as baby seals, these new baby frogs are just as important.