The zoo in the Colombian city of Cali rears and breeds endangered frog species in a protected natural environment that Zurich Zoo helped set up. Eight species, including the rare poison dart frog species, the golden poison frog and Lehmann's poison frog, are being bred at the amphibian centre. The amphibian conservation project also does scientific fieldwork in the Valle del Cauca region and runs information programmes inside and outside Cali zoo. Here at Zurich Zoo, we also rear and breed various amphibian species, mainly poison dart frogs from the rainforests of South America and tomato frogs from Madagascar.
The diversity of amphibians in Colombia is overwhelming. Over 700 species have been documented, in comparison to the 20 species that live in Switzerland. A serious fungal skin infection known as Chytrid fungus is spreading worldwide at a rapid rate. There are currently no options to stop the fatal infection spreading or to treat infected amphibians in the wild, so the preservation of species under human care with the objective of future resettlements has high priority. In association with universities, the zoo records the distribution and status of various amphibian species to establish a basis for introducing future targeted conservation measures.
Amphibians are both terrestrial and aquatic creatures. The best-known representatives are frogs, toads, salamanders and newts. There are almost 7,000 species worldwide. According to the latest studies of the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN, about one third of them are threatened with extinction. Many populations are in heavy decline and over 100 species have disappeared forever in the last 25 years. Climate change, the destruction of natural habitats and introduced animal species are endangering and threatening the survival of the remaining species. The spread of the Chytrid fungus, which harms amphibians' skin, makes the outlook even worse, as it is already causing mass deaths and even the extinction of some species.