Friday, April 15, 2011

Poison Dart Frog

Poison dart frogs are gorgeous, vibrantly colored frogs from Central and South America. They get their name from the fact that many indigenous tribes used their toxins for blow darts. They are also critically endangered, having been decimated by the Chytrid fungus. They are also at risk from collectors, mostly from Germany and Japan, who are attracted to the rare frogs' beautiful colors and patterns.

Unlike some other amphibians, poison dart frogs don't lay a lot of eggs. As a result, they are very devoted parents, carrying their tadpoles piggyback from water source to water source. This lack of fecundity and the dependence on their parents is another reason why collectors are such a threat to the species. Millions of dollars worth of frogs are smuggled out of South America every day.

Collectors aren't the only reason these frogs are so valuable. Their skin contains more than just toxins. They contain chemicals that can be used to treat everything from cancer to Alzheimers to HIV. They are a shmorgishborg of useful and amazing chemicals, and as a result they are in high demand from pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, these chemicals and toxins are not innately created by the frogs, they come from the frogs' diet and environment. This makes captive bred frogs useless for research, hence the constant demand for new frogs off the black market. Now I would think that such dependence on biodiversity would encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest money in sanctuaries for these creatures and sustainable rainforests. That way they would have a continual supply of specimens without having to worry about running out or perpetuating an exploitative and illegal black market. But then that's why I don't run a pharmaceutical company.

So lets see, these frogs are adorable, beautiful and varied in color and pattern, caring parents, poster children for the interconnectedness of life, and could possibly save countless lives. Fuck the giant panda, these guys need to be the new face of conservation!

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