ARMAGEDDON is approaching for frogs throughout the world, warns internationally renowned primatologist Jane Goodall.
The 74-year-old conservationist visited Adelaide Zoo yesterday to discuss the potential mass extinction of frogs and how an international breeding program, dubbed the Amphibian Ark, might be the only hope for hundreds of species.
Frogs are "the canary in the coalmine", Dr Goodall told The Australian yesterday.
"When you see frogs disappear at this rate, then you realise there's something very wrong with the ecosystem where they live."
Of about 6000 amphibian species worldwide, it is estimated close to 2000 are now threatened with extinction.
Dr Goodall, who spends at least 300 days a year travelling to promote environmental issues, blames climate change, pollution and a disease spreading throughout the world for the decline in frog populations. "It's armageddon for frogs," she said.
Dr Goodall is best known as aprimatologist and for establishing the Jane Goodall Institute in 1971. The institute aims to protect the habitats of chimpanzees and other animals.
She said frogs were particularly vulnerable to shrinking water supplies caused by climate change and poor agricultural practices, as well as pollution run-off.
The Amphibian Ark project is being established as an insurance policy against mass extinction in several countries.
Zoos, botanic gardens and aquariums are now taking different frog species into specially designed biosecure shipping containers to ensure they can breed safely.
Adelaide and Monarto Zoo chief executive Chris West, who moved to Australia two years ago after heading the London Zoo, is preparing a biosecure facility "just in case" a fungus that is killing frogs around the world spreads to South Australia.
The zoo is helping to finance a biosecure facility in Central America. "We're working on the battlefront -- right around the world there are species that are going extinct," Dr West said. "It's the biggest extinction crisis since the dinosaurs."
Dr Goodall is encouraging people to make small changes to their lifestyles in an effort to combat climate change and help save amphibians.
"The cumulative effect of people around the planet making small changes every day -- you have to think how does this choice I'm making help the environment."
The amphibian crisis will top the agenda at the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums annual conference, which will be held in Adelaide later this month.
Dr Goodall will return to Adelaide to address the conference on frogs.
Along with British naturalist David Attenborough, Dr Goodall has been named a patron of the Year of theFrog.
Sir David will make a video address to participants at the Adelaide conference.