Cryobanking involves the preservation of cells and DNA in liquid nitrogen that will permit whole-animal cloning, if necessary, in the future. "These are time-consuming and costly backup plans to save species, normally reserved for those species closest to extinction, as in Haiti," Hedges said. "The goal is to release offspring of rescued frogs in Haiti if and when their forest habitat improves." Hedges and the Philadelphia Zoo also are working with the Haitian government and non-governmental agencies to train Haitians in this conservation research so that they can develop the capacity to breed these species in Haiti.
Frog species have been disappearing worldwide during the last 10 to 20 years, and one-third of the 6,000 frog species on Earth now are threatened with extinction. But 92 percent of Haiti's 50 frog species are threatened -- the highest percentage of any country in the world. Even worse, most Haitian frog species are officially designated as "endangered" and "critically endangered," the two highest levels of concern. "We found that as many as 26 species occur together in the isolated mountain forests of southwest Haiti, greatly increasing the threat of mass extinctions when the forests there are cut down," Hedges said. Of the 50 frog species in Haiti, two-thirds -- 30 species -- live only in Haiti and do not occur in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
"Less than one percent of the original forest is left in Haiti, which is a lower percentage than in any other country that I know of," Hedges said. "The
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