Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, septiembre 30, 2007

Ranas Perdidas y Ranas Extintas

cross posted at daily Kos

How very strange and disquieting. Frogs are disappearing from our planet. Many species have already become extinct and even more are being driven toward extinction.

In 2006 the Washington Post reported:
Rising temperatures are responsible for pushing dozens of frog species over the brink of extinction in the past three decades, according to findings being reported today by a team of Latin American and U.S. scientists.

The study, published in the journal Nature, provides compelling evidence that climate change has already helped wipe out a slew of species and could spur more extinctions and the spread of diseases worldwide. It also helps solve the international mystery of why amphibians around the globe have been vanishing from their usual habitats over the past quarter-century -- as many as 112 species have disappeared since 1980.

Apparently, rising temperatures make frogs more vulnerable to disease.
J. Alan Pounds -- the resident scientist at the Tropical Science Center's Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica and the study's lead author -- worked with 13 other researchers to pin down the link between rising tropical temperatures and the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that has wiped out dozens of species of harlequin frogs in recent years.
"Disease is the bullet killing frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger," Pounds said. "Global warming is wreaking havoc on amphibians and will cause staggering losses of biodiversity if we don't do something first."

According to researchers, around 122 amphibian species have become extinct worldwide since 1980, and another 32 percent are currently considered at risk of extinction.

I am not a herpetologist. And I hadn't heard this news. Or if I did, it somehow didn't make a very deep or lasting impression. But I read Latin American literature extensively. I just finished Mayra Montero's gem of a novel In the Palm of Darkness, which is about love and politics and, yes, the extinction of frogs. The story is a search for the last of the species "grenouille du sang", the Haitian name for "Eleutherodactylus sanguineus" by an American herpetologist and his Haitian guide.

I'm not going to summarize the plot of the book; that would be a disservice. It should be read in its entirety. One quick point: when Latin American writers set a novel in Haiti, they bring their "A game." And Montero's book is a small wonder.

Two vignettes convey the ecological problem:
Every spring thousands of samll, golden frogs belonging to the species known as Bufo pereglenes would appear in the rivers and ponds of the Monteverde forest in northern Costa Rica.

It was the season when they engaged in a curious mating ritual that lasted for several days.

In 1988 only one golden frog was seen in the entire range of the forest.

Two years later, in 1990, the Bufo periglenes becamse completely extinct.
page 67.

In, 1992 four frog species disappeared from Casuco National Park in Honduras.

Eleutherodactylus milesi, Hyla soalia, Plectobyla dasypus, and Plectrobyla teuchestes, whose populations once abounded in the region, had given no prior indications of problems in the habitat, or any signs of decline.

The frogs disappeared without a trace, and not a single tadpole of the four species could be found in any of the numerous bodies of water in the area.

Biologists have emphasized "the catastrophic, unexplainable nature" of these disappearance.
page 157

My grief on learning of these extinctions is palpable. I have no quick solution. There may be no solution.

I hope that mentioning the frogs and Montero's novel can move us toward awareness of the devastating consequences of our failure to pay attention to our surroundings.

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Anonymous Jeff Davis said...

I will definitely pick up this book. Thank you. For what it's worth, I have a blog that carefully tracks the amphibian crisis, and works closely with Amphibian Ark. Please consider offering it as a resource for your considerably larger readership! It's a mish mash of original reporting and hop culture of the schtickier side...intended to bring people into the topic. Thanks for considering. -- Jeff Davis

3:16 p.m.  

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