A Nationwide "Frog Force"
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 24 Sep 98 10:36:46 -0700
Subject: A Nationwide "Frog Force"
Government asks "frog force" to find frog killers
WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The federal government, an environmental
group and a children's television show joined forces on Tuesday to recruit
children to help find out what is killing the nation's frogs.
They set up an Internet web site devoted to the search and hope to
commission thousands of schoolchildren as a nationwide "frog force" to try to
save the disappearing amphibians.
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said numerous studies show that frogs are
dying in alarming numbers. Others are turning up with gross deformities.
"The real questions are why now and why is this happening in so many places
around the world?" Babbitt told an audience at the kick-off of the new
Babbitt's department is also part of the Task Force on Amphibian Decline
and Deformities (TADD), which includes other agencies such as the Agriculture,
Education and Health and Human Services Departments, the Smithsonian
Institution, the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of
Science and Technology Policy.
"When we consider that these creatures are hardy enough to have been on
Earth for 350 million years, it is shocking to think that there could be a
world without frogs. We must act quickly, first to understand the problems and
then to try to solve them," Babbitt said.
Frogs are considered a "sentinel species," succumbing early to threats that
may later affect humans. Because of their permeable skin and because they live
both on the land and in the water, chemicals and pathogens can affect them
The new Internet site, www.frogweb.gov, is meant to be an interactive site.
It gives information about frogs and invites users to enter details about dead
or deformed amphibians they might see while out-of-doors.
"Clearly, the government and scientific community can't solve this problem
alone," Mark van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation, which
joined in the project, said in a statement.
"Our goal in this partnership is to educate citizen naturalists about the
plight of amphibians and equip them to help find the answers," he added.
"By unlocking this secret, we are looking out for ourselves and the whole
living community that we're part of."
Chris Kratt, who hosts the public television series "Kratt's Creatures," has
also joined in the initiative.
Experts say frogs are dying off from Minnesota to Australia and Costa Rica.
They say a fungus normally found in the soil seems to be involved, and theories
blame a range of toxins, from chemicals known as retinoids, to heavy metals and
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Copyright 1998 by their respective source(s); all rights reserved.
© 1998 Peter Langston