A Change Starts with One

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Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique ability opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs, and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

IMG_0404Reptiles and amphibians are not just obscure looking or exotically colored animals. These species have a key role in their corresponding ecosystems. Peter Gilson, Reptile Keeper and Educator Guide for the San Diego Zoo, gave InternQuest a touraround Reptile Mesa and even some behind-the-scenes opportunities! Mr. Gilson said that reptiles in general are suffering greatly from habitat loss due to human impact, the deadly disease of chytrid fungus, as well as the illegal pet trade.

Habitat loss has generated into a major issue for all reptiles and amphibians. An example of this issue, Mr. Gilson explained, is Galapagos Islands. Once untouched by man, the Galapagos Islands were full of flora and fauna diversity, with many species never once seen before. As time passed, humans began to take a toll on this environment, causing harm to many species, such as the Galapagos tortoise. The land where these animals resided, was inhibited by humans, invasive species were introduced, and habitat was altered for agriculture. When animal lose their habitat, they lose their resources, which can negatively impact their survival, and possibly eliminate the species all together.

Chytrid diseases, a disease that is harming and the amphibian community, is fast growing and deadly. This fungus attaches to any structure, from a plant to another organism. The fungus is highly adaptable, making it able to reach a wider range of amphibians. The fungus attaches itself to an organism, and steadily begins to block the pores in the skin. Amphibians breaththrough their skin so this results in decreasing their air supply. Due the disease being able to move at such a fast pace, amphibians are at risk of going extinct. Scientist are working with amphibians that although have the disease in their ecosystem, have not contracted it. This has them wondering if some amphibians are immune to the fungus, and hope this could potentially help them find a cure.

The illegal pet trade is the buying and selling of reptiles and amphibians that are prohibited by the government. Many times, people will buy a pet, which is not legal to own, and then will realize it’s too much of a responsibility to keep. The owner will release the pet into the wild which then causes disruption of to the area and potentially wiping out native species. People should only buy their pets legally and report any animals living in a place illegally.

Mr. Gilson emphasized the importance individuals have on the survival of reptiles and amphibians. If the public becomes more aware of their actions and the importance of these species, we may be able to reverse some of the negative effects that have taken place. A change starts with one, so be the change, and save the life of these crawlers today!

Ivanna, Real World Team
Fall Session 2014