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The Silent Demise of a Species

Over 100 frog species still live in Cameroon’s rainforests—for now at least. Researchers are examining how the frogs’ habitats there have changed, which species are endangered and which might have already disappeared.

21.09.2012 DW Im Focus Baumfrosch Leptopelis modestis

21.09.2012 DW Im Focus Baumfrosch Leptopelis modestis

Many are hardly bigger than a finger nail. Others, like the Goliath Frog, which is native to Cameroon, weigh more than three kilos. Frogs belong to the amphibian family. There are some 5,000 types of amphibian currently known to man. Most live in tropical rainforests. But amphibians are endangered worldwide. Over 30 percent of all amphibian species are currently classified as “threatened” according to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their numbers are dwindling faster than any other group of vertebrates.

Scientists have only partly been able to explain why. The reasons include a rapidly-spreading fungal disease, disappearing habitats, climate change and hunting. Herpetologists, as amphibian experts are called, fear the worst.

Mareike Hirschfeld and Mark-Oliver Rödel strike lucky.

Mareike Hirschfeld and Mark-Oliver Rödel strike lucky.

Tropical ecologists Mark-Oliver Rödel and Mareike Hirschfeld from the Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity in Berlin have been carrying out research in the tropical rainforests of Mount Manengouba in the north west of Cameroon for years now. The scientists are looking for answers to pressing questions. How are the frogs’ habitats changing? Which species are endangered and which ones are already extinct?

Each frog that they find is examined and measured.

Each frog that they find is examined and measured.

The researchers face particularly difficult conditions. It’s the rainy season and the ground is soaked through. Sometimes that means wading knee-deep in mud and running the risk of getting stuck. It’s also hard not to slip and slide on the steep ground. The scientists have to watch where they tread. And keeping dry is impossible.

No shooting for now: Our camera team braves the adverse conditions.

No shooting for now: Our camera team braves the adverse conditions.

In all the years that he has spent conducting research here, Mark-Oliver Rödel has only once seen a live Goliath Frog. And the Berlin team isn’t in luck this time either. But when they accompany hunters on an expedition, they witness the catching of a Hairy Frog—a species that can grow up to 20cm in length. In some parts of Africa, the rapidly growing population see frogs as an important source of protein and a cheap means of supplementing their diet. People need to be given alternatives, if the amphibians are to be protected. A regional NGO has come up with one solution. Hunters are given a pig, if they agree to stop hunting frogs. They are also taught why it is important to preserve the biodiversity of their surroundings.

The Hairy Frog is fairly big and heavy.

The Hairy Frog is fairly big and heavy.

Currently, researchers and environmentalists are working against the clock. We can only hope that they win the battle to save the amphibians from extinction.

There is a UN Conference on biodiversity (COP 11) in Hyderabad, India from October 8 to 19, 2012.

Broadcasting Times:

DW

TUE 09.10.2012 – 06:15 UTC
TUE 09.10.2012 – 13:15 UTC
TUE 09.10.2012 – 17:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 04:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 10:15 UTC

Cape Town UTC +2 | Delhi UTC +5,5 | Hong Kong UTC +8
San Francisco UTC -7 | Edmonton UTC -6 | New York UTC -4

DW (Europe)

TUE 09.10.2012 – 04:15 UTC
TUE 09.10.2012 – 17:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 06:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 13:15 UTC

London UTC +1 | Berlin UTC +2 | Moscow UTC +4

DW (Arabia)

TUE 09.10.2012 – 13:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 04:15 UTC
WED 10.10.2012 – 11:15 UTC

Tunis UTC +1 | Cairo UTC + 2 | Dubai UTC +4

DW (Asien)

MON 08.10.2012 – 22:15 UTC

Delhi UTC +5,5 | Bangkok UTC +7 | Hong Kong UTC +8

DW (Amerika)

TUE 09.10.2012 – 06:15 UTC

Vancouver UTC -7 | New York UTC -4 | Sao Paulo UTC -3

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