Scientists in Australia first discovered the chytrid fungus – scientifically referred to as Chytridiomycosis dendrobatitis – in the late 1970’s. However it is believed to have first occurred in Africa.
The chytrid fungus enters the amphibian’s body through the skin where it begins to multiply and spread in the middle layers. This becomes an increasing problem for the frog, as it breathes and drinks through its skin. In order to combat the fungus, the frog produces more skin cells. However, this only allows the fungus to spread further and the skin to thicken. The frog loses its ability to breath and drink, causing it to become weaker and eventually die of suffocation.
As a result of this chytrid fungus, 120 of Central America’s amphibian species have become extinct since 1980, with many more in grave danger at present.
So what can be done in order to stop the extinction of many more amphibian species? Veterinarians and researchers are ensuring that infected species around the world are being taken in under care. The fungus is then eradicated from their bodies, as this is possible to do in a controlled environment. The species are taken into zoos. However this poses another problem. Frogs and amphibians cannot continue to live in zoos permanently. Their natural habitat is the wild and our hope is that someday they may be released back into the wild with no worry that the fungus will attack again. But how to stop the chytrid fungus? Scientists need to find a way of completely eradicating it from the wild. Alternatively, a breeding program (selective breeding) could be put into place, whereby the frogs would not only become resistant to the fungus, but also reproduce to enlarge the number of individuals in their species back to their original size.
In Panama, the Golden Frog is under threat. Thankfully, measures are being taken: the frogs are being put under quarantine and then into an enclosed space referred to as the “clean room”. In this room they are rid of the fungus, fed and looked after. Space is limited, hence why they are providing the frogs with a new space in one of Panama’s zoos. This is just one example of the amphibian crises that are occurring and being dealt with as a result of the chytrid fungus.
Personally, I believe that although this is a worrying issue at the moment, it is something that can be managed and eventually resolved. How long the process will take I cannot say, however the surveillance and care of the endangered species is already a big step forward. The next, as mentioned earlier, is to find a solution, which will allow these frogs and other amphibians to be released back into the wild without risk of infection and extinction once more.