An emotive new animation has been created by International conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) to help raise the profile of a deadly virus threatening UK common frogs.
‘Ranavirus – Where did the frogs go (and why)?’ – voiced by comedian, author, writer and frog enthusiast Stephen Fry – underlines a decade of research from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology which found that at least 20% of Ranavirus cases over the past 30 years could be caused by pond owners introducing fish, frog spawn or plants from other environments.
Stephen Fry said: “I remember as a child growing up, waiting excitedly until the day frogspawn appeared in my pond. I recall scooping up the eggs with unbridled joy as I watched them develop into tadpoles – sprouting back legs almost as quick as my eyes could blink.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who has such fond memories of frogs as a child, but this joyful interaction with the natural world could soon be a thing of the past, with dreaded impacts of pollution and climate change exacerbating the spread of this virus in frogs. But there is hope, and everybody can help.”
The Ranavirus was introduced to Great Britain by humans in the 1980s, and mainly affects common frogs but could also affect other amphibians, fish and reptiles. The virus works by infecting its host’s cells, where it replicates, releasing huge numbers of new virus particles, killing the cells – and eventually its host in the process.
Amphibians are vital to the world’s ecosystems, and one of the most incredibly diverse forms of life found on every continent except Antarctica. They are essential components of food webs; frogs and newts keep insect and slug populations in check and serve as prey for foxes and birds. Without frogs, localised ecological collapse could follow.
The films’ creators hope that Stephen Fry’s familiar tones, combined with beautiful animation, will help shine a spotlight on the threats faced by these amazing animals.
Members of the public can also assist by reporting sick or dead amphibians to ZSL’s Garden Wildlife Health Project, which helps track diseases affecting British garden wildlife. www.gardenwildlifehealth.org