“At the end of every night, everyone goes back to camp. It was a little bit of a competition to see who caught what. We had a list of prioritized frog. We collected every amphibian we saw. All the frogs were IDed, given a number, and swabbed for amphibian chytrid. Dr. Ibanez took notes. If they were on our list of critical species, we moved them to another area to bring back. We released all the others at the end of the week (we didn’t want to keep recapturing the same individuals.) We opened up each bag, and gave the fogs fresh air, new paper towels, and water every day.
“We’d process frogs all day, and then care for the frogs we’d already collected. At night, we’d gear up and go out collecting some more. And sometimes we did day collections as well. The days were pretty packed.”
“Of the five weeks I was in Panama, only about a week and a half of that was the collecting trip. A lot of it was bringing the frogs back to quarantine. Some of them already had Bd (amphibian chytrid), which was unexpected. We thought we’d get there ahead of it. So we were taking care of the frogs, medicating sick frogs, and getting quarantine space ready.
“We were training them [the Panamanian staff] in how to set up colonies, how to give the frogs accession number [the numbers zoos use to track individual animals], and setting up databases. It was basically like setting up a small zoo. And we had to do all this stuff at once. We were looking at frog feces through microscopes to look for parasites, and de-worming the frogs, cleaning them, treating them for amphibian chytrid, building tanks, coordinating with plumbers and electricians—we were doing all sorts of different tasks.”
“They’re all doing OK now. But in a year, or a year and a half when amphibian chytrid hits, these populations are going to be absolutely devastated. We don’t know how long we have—they could still be doing OK in two years.”
Evans and Gratwicke don’t know when the storm will hit, but they do know it’s coming. The only thing they can do—and what they’re doing quite well—is to work as fast and as furiously as possible to get as many amphibian species as possible into the lifeboats