REPORT #229 April 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

A scientist from the University of Ottawa confirms suspicions with a study published in the latest issue of the Journal Nature. Phd candidate student Houlahan acknowledges that amphibians traditionally have gone through periodic booms to overcome regular cyclical population declines. But the new analysis, shows that the booms are no longer big enough to overcome the declines.

The decline in amphibians has been noted to be occuring statistically from about the 1950's. Amphibians are early warnings of an environment in danger of collapse, or drastic change. Scientists began following the cycles about the 1980's.

In Belize, about 2 or 3 years ago, bush doctor ,Peter Singfield of Xaibe village brought up the declines on the Belize Culture List, a debating forum on Belizean Development affairs. His particular interest was snakes an effected part of the food chain, in which he had an export product interest. The report is on Development Issues in one of the earlier periods of archiving reports of the Belize Development Trust.

The declines in world populations of amphibians are running about 2% a year, even allowing for cyclical boom comebacks. There was a huge drop of 15% in the first half of the 1960's.

Suspected as causes are; pesticides, fertilizers and loss of wetlands. There are other suspect causes in different countries. You can find more details through scientists on Froglog, the internet newsletter of the Declining Amphibian Population Taskforce of the World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission.

What does it mean for Belize? No one knows how this will effect the food chain! The government in it's infinite wisdom has taken a hands off attitude in Belmopan to this early warning sign of a land in trouble. There has been an attempt verbally to cheer farmers and exporters on, with a switch from chemical and pesticide farming, to switch to organically grown products. So far, this Belmopan propoganda program has not succeeded in any agricultural methodology turnaround. What exactly a government policy could be, no one knows for sure, yet.

The amphibians in trouble, are like the fabled canary bird cage, that coal miners take down into the underground mines, to warn of a build up of poisonous gases. The birds being small bodied are more susceptible and will die first, giving miners a warning to get out of the shafts. In the open air of the surface surrounding land masses, the amphibian plays a similar role. It is a warning of a land in trouble. In Western Europe there is a statistical record of a sharp decline in the early 1960's, but this leveled off later. In North America the decline has been slower, but steadily downward. To what extent University College of Belize students are studying, regarding field work,scientific experimental work with the Belizean environment, we do not know. There have been no publications of work papers, essays, compositions on their environmental study conclusion work at all ,for Belizean public consumption. A shortcoming that UCB faculty and administration should be held accountable for. The paid faculty and administration of different UCB branches need to get their act together and start producing pragmatic practical results for the tax money being spent on higher education. It is publish or perish for faculty and certainly Bachelors, Masters and Phd students on Belizean issues.

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