Species goes extinct in Atlanta garden after rare frog dies

Posted at 1:35 PM, Oct 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-01 13:35:20-04

ATLANTA (AP) -- Authorities say a rare tree frog - the last known living member of the species in captivity - has died at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the dead Rabbs' fringe-limbed tree frog was found dead in its enclosure during a routine daily inspection on Monday.

Workers at the garden had nicknamed the male amphibian "Toughie." It was estimated to be about 12 years old when it died.

In 2005 the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Zoo Atlanta and Southern Illinois University sent a team of scientists to Panama to collect live animals before chytrid disease struck the area.

Among the frogs they brought back to Atlanta was a species of tree frogs (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) new to science, the Rabbs' frog, the Atlanta newspaper reported. It was identified in 2005 by Zoo Atlanta herpetology curator Joseph Mendelson, and later named for conservationists George and Mary Rabb. The disease eventually arrived in Panama, and many of the frogs disappeared.

In 2008 the botanical garden purchased and outfitted a climate-controlled facility known as the Frog Pod, designed to house the Rabb's tree frog and other rare amphibians in complete isolation from each other, the Journal-Constitution reported. That's where the Rabbs' frog spent the last eight years of its 11-plus year lifespan.

"Science had a very short window to learn about the species in the wild before this disease struck the only known locality for the frog and the species vanished," said Mary Pat Matheson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Scientists estimate that one-third to one-half of amphibian species worldwide are threatened with extinction.