The statistics are staggering regarding what two species of amphibians are doing for the human race, but it is the human race which has put salamanders and frogs on the endangered species list.
This is the opinion of Mark Mandica, the co-founder and executive director of the Amphibian Foundation, a Buckhead-based nonprofit which was started in 2016 to protect amphibians and their habitats.
The foundation, based out of the Blue Heron Nature Preserve on Roswell Road, has received what he termed generous grants from such groups as the Turner Foundation and others. But an expected sizable grant from the federal government has not materialized because the change to the Trump administration has put amphibian priorities as a low priority, he said.
“Our staff, consisting of four employees, gets paid whenever we can afford it. But as a relatively new nonprofit, we don’t get all the financial support we need,” Mandica said. “As a result, we have to concentrate on raising our own funding through our kids’ camps as well as offering courses for adults that they might be interested in taking.”
Mandica said few people are aware that 43 percent of the world’s amphibians are either on the endangered species list or are already extinct.
“If you ask why that is important, we only need to look at two of those endangered species: frogs and salamanders,” Mandica said. “In only one summer season, a thousand frogs can eat more than a million insects, while in the same time span, salamanders can consume a million mosquitoes.”
Mandica’s wife, Crystal, is the Amphibian Foundation’s co-founder, CFO and director of education.
“We have been up and running for the past year and nine months, and every day is a challenge and we love it,” she said. “We are very proud of the work we've been doing here, and we hope our conservation efforts can reach a wide audience because we believe the more the public knows about us, the more they will help support us.”
Mark Mandica, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in evolutionary biology from the University of Massachusetts and the University of Miami, respectively, said saving the salamander continues to be a high priority for the organization.
“There is only one known wetland in Georgia that remains as its habitat, as well as a few clusters of wetlands in Florida, so this species is disappearing right before our eyes,” he said.
As far as frogs being on the endangered species list, he said, over the years, chemicals that are put in tap water to treat it so it is safe for human use are seeping into lakes and streams and actually are turning male frogs into female ones.
Mandica said the Amphibian Foundation is concentrating on breeding frogs and salamanders and restoring their natural habitats.
“However, they can’t be released into the wild until these natural habitats are restored so they are able to support these species,” he said.
For more information on the Amphibian Foundation, visit www.amphibianfoundation.org.