published Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Chattanooga: Amphibian wonders

Zoo, aquarium ‘leap’ to help highlight worldwide crisis


by Laura Galbraith
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover
    Zoo volunteer Myers Dickinson, 12, peers into an aquarium during a special, frog-themed event at the Chattanooga Zoo Saturday. Visitors were able to participate in a scavenger hunt, make frog door hangers and learn more about different species of frog.

Educators and volunteers at the Chattanooga Zoo and the Tennessee Aquarium don’t just want you to remember to set your clock forward one hour this weekend.

They want the leap into daylight saving time to mark a new public awareness of the dangers that currently afflict the world’s amphibian population.

On Saturday, both attractions combined fun and learning with a number of amphibian-themed activities.

“A lot of people know a little bit about the amphibian crisis, but not a lot,” said Darde Long, the zoo’s director. “This helps raise awareness for people to understand what’s going on, how serious the threat is and why it matters.”

According to recent news reports, up to half the world’s 6,000 amphibian species, which include frogs, toads, newts and salamanders, are threatened by disease, pollution and global warming.

“Last year was actually declared ‘Year of the Frog’ by the American Associations of Zoos and Aquariums,” Ms. Long said. “But the idea was not to just forget about them after the year was over, but to keep reminding people of that crisis and how important it is to worry about the conservation.”

Kids kept busy by making their own frog souvenirs, participating in a jump rope contest and getting up close and personal with the zoo’s many species of frogs.

Another highlight of the day was a scavenger hunt that required participants to use their knowledge of amphibians in order to win.

“A lot of kids are really into frogs now,” said Debbie Shelley, the education curator for the Chattanooga Zoo. “A lot of schools are teaching that kind of thing now, so it’s good for them to see the frogs up front.”

The learning activities continued throughout the day at the Tennessee Aquarium as well, where kids created their own frog puppets and took photos with Tad, the aquarium’s frog mascot.

“Our new animal encounter specialist was highlighting frogs today, taking them out and having people see as much of our collection as they can in a more up-close fashion,” said Thaddeus Taylor, an educator at the aquarium. “One of my favorite things to showcase here is our aquatic caecillians. We don’t have any in North America, so we don’t learn about this third group of amphibians.”

There were also several short auditorium presentations about frog conservation at the aquarium.

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