In the small village of El Valle, Panama, nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, the sound of hammers and volunteers at work on the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) has become a symbol of hope in a desperate race against time.

The crews — conservation biologists and volunteers — are finishing up more than a building. They have created an ark of sorts, rescuing frogs and other amphibians from habitat destruction and the sweep of a deadly fungus that is threatening amphibians around the world with extinction.

The team in El Valle has brought hundreds of frogs, toads and salamanders and dozens of species into captivity. Realizing the only hope to protect the animals for future generations, the team leaped into action to capture and bring them into the lab for safekeeping and breeding. As more and more frogs are found and brought in from danger, with the help of the Clorox Company, the EVACC team is now close to realizing another dream: to create an open-to-the-public area where visitors can learn about the struggle to save the frogs.

In the past 20 years, approximately 165 species of amphibians have become extinct. Nearly 2,000 species — one third of the world’s amphibians — are now threatened, with another quarter considered data deficient but probably threatened, by a host of threats including habitat destruction first and foremost, and other threats like pollution, utilization, climate change, and a fungal disease — called chytrid (KIT-rid), the Golden Frog among them. Habitat destruction was killing these frogs slowly, chytrid fungus swept through and finished the job quickly.

In 2005, as chytrid was sweeping from El Cope to El Valle, the Houston Zoo rallied other zoos and aquariums, universities and international conservation organizations to begin work on the El Valle center. At the EVACC center and in captive breeding programs around the world, frogs and other amphibians are rescued from the wild and taken into protective custody. Scientists hope that one day the species can be returned to the wild once a way to control the danger is realized.

The EVACC center is slated to open its doors to the public in fall of 2008. Learn more about the EVACC center and its efforts to eradicate the global amphibian crisis. MORE>

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