11 September 2008

Health-checks for the nation’s frogs

Conservation charities the Froglife and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are calling for the public to look out for and report cases of sick and dead frogs – and other amphibians like toads and newts – in an attempt to expand vital research into the state of the nation’s amphibians.

The UK’s amphibians are being affected by two significant diseases, ranavirus and the chytrid fungus. Ranavirus kills thousands of frogs, toads and newts in the UK each year and the chytrid fungus, implicated in extinctions of amphibian species around the world, has recently been identified in the UK.

Scientists remain unsure of the extent to which amphibian populations are being affected and what the implications for the UK’s frogs, toads and newts may be. Dr Andrew Cunningham, senior ZSL scientist, commented, “Amphibians are being devastated by disease on a global scale but we have only an extremely limited picture of what is going on in our own backyard. Reports of outbreaks across the UK are absolutely vital for ZSL’s continuing research and, in the long term, to ensure the survival of our extraordinary amphibians.”

“There is a whole range of reasons why dead amphibians turn up in gardens and many of these are completely normal events. However, during the humid summer months we hear numerous reports of unusual frog deaths in gardens.” said Daniel Piec, Froglife’s Head of Conservation. “We are appealing to the public for information on new cases so that we can paint a better picture of the damage these amphibian diseases are inflicting.”

Both diseases are harmless to humans, but in amphibians result in a variety of symptoms that could include lethargy, thinness or unexplained mass-deaths of adults or juvenile amphibians. Internal bleeding and open skin sores have also been reported. Members of the public who have come across unusual amphibian deaths in their gardens are urged to submit their information on the Froglife website: www.froglife.org. This information will then be used by ZSL in its research on diseases affecting UK amphibians.

Find out more: www.froglife.org/disease

Don't forget: if you have healthy amphibians in your garden we still want to hear from you - fill in our Frogwatch online survey form and provide us with crucial control data we need for our research on frog disease: www.froglife.org/disease

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