-- Only one female Atelopus limosus exists in captivity in the world, but a Cheyenne Mountain Zoo team hopes to find more --

February 10, 2011, Colorado Springs, CO – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo President Bob Chastain is leading a local zoo team back into the jungles of Panama tomorrow (February 11 – 19) as part of a global effort to save amphibian species on the verge of extinction due to chytrid fungus. It’s the fifth expedition for the zoo, and Chastain’s largest zoo team yet. This trip, five members of the group will hike to the remote, mountainous area of Cerro Brewster in search of the endangered Atelopus limosus harlequin frog. They’ll rescue specimens at greatest risk and take the frogs to a special bio-secure breeding and care facility at Panama’s Summit Zoo. An additional Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staffer will be assisting with veterinary care at the facility. The team is especially interested in finding females.

There is currently just one Atelopus limosus female in captivity in the world. Chastain previously made expeditions to the same Cerro Brewster region in hopes of finding the frog. This time, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is making the trip during the dry season, when amphibians are more likely to come down to the water from trees to breed. The team feels it will be their best shot of finding the species. Without additional females, there is little hope for a viable, sustainable population.

Over one-third of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction. Habitat loss and environmental pollutants are taking their toll, as well as a rapidly spreading amphibian chytrid fungal disease. The disease wipes out 50% of species in its path, species which could hold the key to significant medical advances against HIV, cancer, and other diseases.

Follow Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s journey on the frog blog.

See photos of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo team and the Atelopus limosus.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a founding partner in the international Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project initiative. The organization’s mission is to establish amphibian assurance colonies and develop methodologies to reduce the impact of the chytrid fungus so captive amphibian species may one day be re-introduced to the wild. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo will be joined this trip by representatives from other Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project partners, including Houston Zoo’s El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Summit Zoo. Zoo New England will oversee the veterinary support. Africam Safari, ANAM (Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente), Defenders of Wildlife, and Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park also fund and provide support for the project.