Amphibian Research & Conservation: Zilla Teams Up with The Amphibian Foundation!
Many species on this Earth are disappearing before our eyes. In fact, 43% of the world’s amphibians are in decline or already extinct due to loss of habitat and human interference. Luckily, humans also have the opportunity to help these vulnerable species.
Mark Mandica, biologist and life-long amphibian conservationist, is creating his own opportunities to give these creatures a better chance for a prosperous future. Up until two years ago, Mark had been working with native endangered species at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. But when his program was suddenly cut, he needed to act fast to save the endangered species in his care and to maintain momentum on the research that could potentially save them.
One thing lead to another and The Amphibian Foundation was created.
What Is The Amphibian Foundation?
This one-of-a-kind nonprofit focuses on conservation research to address environmental threats in the southeastern United States and across the globe. Together, the Foundation staff and a team of volunteers help maintain the Amphibian Research and Conservation Center, or as they affectionately call it “Metamorphosis Meadow”. Essentially, this center is a large outdoor lab containing 20 artificial wetlands from ponds, uplands and everything in-between. They use these controlled habitats to keep endangered animals safe and assist them with breeding. Currently, there are more than 500 animals spread across these artificial wetlands.
Through partnerships, the Amphibian Foundation is able able to significantly increase the impact they have on conservation. While the Amphibian Foundation is busy surveying habitat for endangered species, studying how to keep these animals alive in captivity and how to help them breed naturally, partnering organizations are working in the field to recover and restore natural habitats. Once these sites are restored to suitable living conditions, the animals born at the Foundation are returned home.
You can see a full list of the conservation partners, and the roles they play in protecting endangered species here.
What is truly unique about The Amphibian Foundation, is that it is completely funded and run by the conservationists actively working to save these at-risk species. With many other conservation groups, layers of bureaucracy and politics often slow down progress. Fortunately, the people working at The Amphibian Foundation have the freedom to focus solely on the needs of the endangered amphibians and do what’s necessary to help them survive and see a better tomorrow.
Taking An Active Role In Amphibian Education, As Well As Preservation
The Amphibian Foundation also provides several educational opportunities for people of all ages. Crystal Mandica, Director of Education at the foundation, pilots many of the unique and exciting programs hosted by the foundation. Of the many available courses, classes and educational programs, the following are the most popular:
Critter Camp - A science-based summer and school year camp for kids aged 6 - 14 years old. Campers get the opportunity to explore concepts in biology, ecology, and conservation using a safe, hands-on approach with reptiles and amphibians. Critter Camp is currently in its fourth year and continues to grow!
Connecting kids to reptiles has a significant impact on the future of these animals and the students involved. This environment gives children the opportunity to explore their passion for science and each student who attends this camp has the potential to become a future conservationist.
Critters & Cabernet - Why should the kids have all the fun?! Many of the parents who had sent their kids to Critter Camp were a little jealous, understandably so. So Mark and Crystal came up with a solution. These educational sessions happen monthly, and give adults 21+ the opportunity to learn about reptiles and enjoy a glass of wine.
Master Herpetologist Program - This is a joint program between The Amphibian Foundation and Zoo Atlanta’s Herpetology Department. This is a very intensive class which provides an introduction to herpetology, the study of reptiles.
Zilla and The Amphibian Foundation
Zilla has been very supportive of The Amphibian Foundation from the beginning, and their biggest combined project is yet to come.
This project starts with the Lemur Leaf Frog, a critically endangered species from Central America. Some of these frogs have found a new home at The Amphibian Foundation, and the biologists there are trying to help them breed healthy babies which can eventually return to their home in Panama.
The problem is, to breed in captivity, Lemur Leaf Frogs need an enclosure that can perfectly re-create the rainy season of their natural habitat. To date, most enclosures cannot accommodate these very specific artificial weather conditions. Mark and his team have a prototype, but with the help of Zilla, they hope to create a state of the art enclosure.
Together, Zilla and The Amphibian Foundation are building a Rain Chamber. This Rain Chamber will be able to handle a 24-hour rain cycle, complete with thunder and lightning, and re-create the environment needed for these tropical frogs to spawn. Currently, the hope is to build an enclosure about 6-feet wide, 8-feet tall and filled with native plants. The Rain Chamber will provide the frogs with their ideal home and give the experts at The Amphibian Foundation control over every variable needed to help this endangered species breed.
You can help The Amphibian Foundation’s conservation efforts by donating to support the programs or by purchasing merchandise. You can also follow along with them and their adventures on twitter!