Friday, April 3, 2009

Georgia Project Part of PBS Nature Program on Frogs

The latest installment in the PBS Nature series includes Georgia gopher frogs and efforts to restore them in an otherwise troubling look at problems decimating frog populations worldwide.

“Frogs: The Thin Green Line” premieres nationally on the Public Broadcasting System at 8 p.m. April 5 (check local listings). The focus is on a fungus called chytrid, considered a major reason for the loss of an estimated one-third of amphibians today, according to producers THIRTEEN and ArgoFilms. Experts don’t know where the deadly fungus started or how to stop it.

“The Thin Green Line” also profiles other dangers: chemical contamination blamed for deformities and even sexuality changes in frogs, climate change, and habitat loss.

The segment on gopher frogs covers a project partnership between the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, Atlanta Botanical Garden, The Nature Conservancy, the University of Georgia and Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center to rear gopher frogs and release them at 1,980-acre Williams Bluffs Nature Preserve near Blakely.

Gopher frogs have lost 97 percent of their habitat in a six-state range. These stubby, nocturnal frogs that spend most of their lives in burrows are found almost exclusively in the Coastal Plain’s longleaf pine ecosystem. “When you have 3 percent of this habitat remaining and all the animals that depend on it, it’s obvious why they’re disappearing,” says John Jensen, a senior biologist with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section.

The one-hour documentary shows Jensen and Robert Hill of Atlanta Botanical Garden releasing gopher frog metamorphs and tadpoles into a seasonal pond at Williams Bluffs. The multiyear project started in 2007. “This is what conservation is all about,” Hill says of the release.

But the threat of extinction looms large in “The Thin Green Line.” Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo traveled from Panama to Australia and around the U.S. to detail the “greatest mass extinction of amphibians since the dinosaurs,” according to THIRTEEN. Last year, Argo called the gopher frog restoration project one of the few “positively good” stories about amphibians.

Gopher frog conservation is supported in part by sales of Georgia’s bald eagle and hummingbird license plates and donations to the Give Wildlife a Chance state income tax checkoff. Details at

Check for more about “Frogs: The Thin Green Line.”

Georgia Front Page
Fayette Front Page

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