National Geographic : 2009 Apr
PACIFIC OCEAN Caribbean Sea PANAMA CANAL 1987 1993 1996 2002 20042006 2008 El Copé Panama City San José PANAMA COSTA RICA NICARAGUA venture aimed at keeping at least 500 species in captivity for reintroduction when---if---the crisis is resolved. But the task is immense and expensive, and there s no guarantee how many healthy wild places will be le for amphibians to recolonize. THE TROPICS, where conditions foster high amphibian biodiversity, have seen the most dramatic declines. But more temperate climates haven t been spared. Consider the cold, upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada of California. Here, fungus-related declines in Costa Rica and Panama in the late 1990s, they began mapping chytrid s path and predicting its victims. By 2000, teams were grabbing up animals from the most vulnerable species to stash them away---at zoos, at hotels, anywhere temporary space could be carved out for stacks of aquariums. Sick frogs were treated and quarantined. Many were exported (with much political wrangling) to U.S. zoos, while a Panamanian facility was built to house nearly a thousand animals. So began the Amphibian Ark, a growing international 0mi 100 0km 100 NGM MAPS CENTRAL AMERICA DATA: KAREN R. LIPS, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY. CHYTRID SAMPLING DATA: DEANNA H. OLSON AND KATHRYN L. RONNENBERG, U.S. FOREST SERVICE; MATTHEW C. FISHER, IMPERIAL COLLEGE, U.K. EQUATOR ASIA EUROPE AUSTRALIA AFRICA SOUTH AMERICA NORTH AMERICA Chytrid sampling sites as of 2008. Surveys in Asia are under way. Positive Negative Chytrid on the March Global data reveal the alarming reach of amphibian chytridiomycosis, first reported in the wild in Australia, but likely originating in Africa. Area Enlarged In Central America (above) the fungus has moved like a wave---spreading up to 27 miles a year. In 2008 it jumped the Panama Canal, putting that country's eastern amphibian populations in the line of fire.