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Australasian Zoos have joined world Zoos in Year of the Frog 2008 to help avert the dramatic increase in frog extinctions.

The coordinated regional conservation strategy will be announced during the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria Conference at Taronga Zoo this week. The program addresses the steady decline of Australasia's frog populations with 47 species out of 220 endangered by habitat loss and disease.

ARAZPA Zoos have initiated over 17 projects focusing on 14 different frog species across the region and during the Conference they will develop further coordinated planning to save frog species. Members will also be asked to contribute to fund-raising for global Frog conservation campaigners; Amphibian Ark. Taronga Zoo has already committed $40,000 towards the $400,000 regional target.

Taronga's Director, Guy Cooper, said: "Taronga Zoo is currently supporting the Booroolong Frog, native to South-Western NSW, with a breeding project conducted with NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change."

"The first Booroolong Frogs to be bred in captivity were released by Taronga last month, just one year after the Zoo started a breeding program to save the tiny amphibian which has suffered unprecedented population declines recently. "

"This follows the establishment of the Corroboree Frog program just two years ago."

Kevin Johnson of ARAZPA said: "One of the key challenges faced by frog species is Chytrid Fungus, a widespread and deadly disease that affects frogs in cool mountainous areas, causing population declines and currently without a cure.

"Habitat destruction is another key threat to frogs. Frogs are very sensitive to their environment and the removal of plants and trees or changes to water supply and quality can result in frogs losing their food, their resting and hiding places and suitable mates. It is vital that we act now to prevent further diminishment of the species, in the Australiasian region and around the world."

ARAZPA's coordinated effort for frogs provides an unprecedented platform for other species in the region. With over 600 million visitors annually to 1200 zoological instutionaround the world backed by their 100,000 staff, this unique cooperative project has the potential to take conservation programs to a new level.

Regional Zoo Frog Programs

With only four native frog species occurring in the country, Auckland Zoo's conservation efforts for Archey's Frogs are vital. The Zoo has established a Native Frog Research Centre in collaboration with the Department of Conservation Native Frog Recovery Group to research wild populations, fundraise and establish captive populations.

New Zealand's Archey's Frog populations have plummeted as a result of different environmental factors, including the Chytrid Fungus. The Zoo has raised significant funds towards conservation by establishing a travelling information centre which promotes frog conservation to children.

Perth Zoo has built partnerships with established recovery teams and researchers to establish a successful captive breeding and management program for three frog species in West Australia - the Roseate Frog, the Orange-bellied Frog and the Sunset Frog.

The program has already yielded success with the first successful captive breeding of the Roseate Frog, and the identification of Chytrid Fungus as a key cause of population decline for the Orange-bellied Frog and Sunset Frog.

Queensland zoos have initiated talks to conduct ex-situ management of the Kroombit Tinker Frog and other threatened Frog species in the area, working with Universities and the Environmental Protections Agency.

Weribee Open Range Zoo, Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary (all from Victoria), Hamilton Zoo (New Zealand), and Tidbinbilla Nature reserve (ACT) are also undertaking frog conservation projects as part of ARAZPAs continuing commitment to amphibian conservation.

Approximately 165 of the world's known amphibian species may already be extinct and another third are classified as threatened. Frogs are particularly vulnerable to pollution because of their semi-permeable skin which allows absorbtion of contaminants in water and air. Introduced species such as foxes, rabbits, cane toads and domestic animals also prey on frog species and threaten their survival.

Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year.

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