Haiti is on the brink of an era of mass extinctions similar to the time when dinosaurs and many other species suddenly disappeared from the Earth, reports a biologist at Penn State University, who is announcing today the establishment of a species-rescue program for Haiti's threatened frogs and other species, including captive-breeding and gene-preservation efforts. "During the next few decades, many Haitian species of plants and animals will become extinct because the forests where they live, which originally covered the entire country, are nearly gone," reports Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State and leader of the rescue missions in Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean. "The decline of frogs in particular, because they are especially vulnerable, is a biological early-warning signal of a dangerously deteriorating environment, just as a dying canary is an early-warning sign of dangerously deteriorating air in a coal mine," said Hedges, who is also one of the world's foremost authorities on amphibians and reptiles. "When frogs start disappearing, other species will follow and the Haitian people will suffer, as well, from this environmental catastrophe."
Hedges recently relocated ten critically endangered species of frogs from Haiti to a captive-breeding program at the Philadelphia Zoo. One of these species already has begun breeding, laying eggs, and producing hatchlings in Philadelphia. Hedges has discovered at least five new frog species during three expeditions to Haiti this year, but he was not able to find two species that may now be extinct because they have not been seen there for 25 years. His scientific descriptions of the new species will be published in future issues of research journals.
The rescue mission led by Hedges is part of a new effort supported by the National Science Foundation to determine which species of amphibians and reptiles currently survive in Haiti, to pinpoint their locations, to discover a
|Contact: Barbara Kennedy|