From the forests of Puerto Rico to the jungles of Central America to the high Sierras of the American West, the world's frogs are mysteriously vanishing. Experts believe that as many as one-third to one-half of the planet's 5,743 known amphibian species are in danger of disappearing -- victims of the most significant mass extinction since the dinosaurs. Why are amphibians in such dire straits? And how can we take action to save them? The Vanishing Frog, a new documentary from Animal Planet in partnership with The Clorox Company, sends Jeff Corwin on an international mission to uncover clues about the frogs' deadly plight. The documentary premieres Thursday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT).
Habitat loss, climate change and a deadly fungus, chytrid, have led to a dramatic increase in extinction rates among amphibians, causing a global population crisis. Throughout The Vanishing Frog, Corwin visits areas in North and Central America where frogs used to live in abundance, only to find there are few remaining. At each site, Corwin consults with regional experts to find out what can be done, if anything, to help these precious animals.
"Frogs are incredibly amazing creatures with a variety of astonishing skills and innate abilities," says Corwin. "The plight of the small amphibians is -- unfortunately -- quite large. Frogs have been with us since before the dinosaurs; they are a critical part of the ecosystem and now they are disappearing. They have the uncanny ability to adapt to almost any environment, which has enabled them to colonize every piece of land in the world except Antarctica and Iceland, but now face their greatest challenge."
The leading cause of amphibian extinction is habitat destruction, but a deadly fungus known as chytrid has dramatically increased the rate of extinction, in Panama, Costa Rica and even in the U.S. Right now, the only way to save frogs from the chytrid fungus is to rescue them from the wild and take them into protective custody. Frogs that are rescued are treated with anti-fungal chemicals to combat the chytrid. Anything else that has contacted water during the rescue is treated with a bleach solution, from boots and clothing to instruments and transport containers to help control the spread of fungus to new, uncontaminated areas.
Last fall, Clorox became the first corporate sponsor of the "Year of the Frog" and signed on to THE The Vanishing Frog project while it was still in development. In addition, Clorox is providing funding to complete the construction of a visitors and education center at the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in Panama, a project designed to help save amphibians that are disappearing in the wild.
While focusing on conservation, The Vanishing Frog celebrates the beauty and importance of frogs and other amphibians. Corwin tells the story of amphibians worldwide as viewers get an up close look at species such as the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog, the Coqui Frog and the enormous hellbender salamanders that are all in danger of extinction. With the help of research institutions like James Madison University and the University of Puerto Rico, The Vanishing Frog attempts to illustrate to viewers the wondrous array of amphibians, while informing them of their global plight. Without a global effort to protect and preserve these animals, they could disappear forever. Along the way, Corwin even makes a rare discovery.
THE VANISHING FROG is produced for Animal Planet by Discovery Studios. The executive producer for Animal Planet is Melinda Toporoff, and the executive producer for Discovery Studios is Chris Weber.
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