Big Problem in the Big Easy: Invasive Cuban Treefrogs Move into Louisiana

iStock
iStock

Louisiana is now home to one more frog species, and that's a problem. According to Popular Science, scientists have found invasive Cuban treefrogs at a New Orleans zoo, marking the first toehold the amphibians have been able to make in the U.S. outside of Florida.

Cuban treefrogs are native to Cuba, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas, but they came to the U.S. in the 1920s by way of the Florida Keys. They have since spread as far north as Jacksonville. The massive frogs—females can grow up to 6 inches long—are major pests, hunting several species of native Floridian frogs and out-competing others, clogging drains and setting up camp in toilets, and occasionally causing power outages when they decide to hide in utility boxes.

Now, the species is showing up in New Orleans, more than 430 miles away. They may have stowed away on a 2016 shipment of palm trees from Lake Placid, Florida bound for the elephant exhibit at New Orleans's Audubon Zoo.

A U.S. Geological Survey in the fall of 2017 captured hundreds of the frogs on and around the zoo's grounds. Over the course of four surveys, USGS scientists found 367 frogs and 2000 Cuban treefrog tadpoles. They drained the two pools where the tadpoles were swimming in the hopes of killing off any they missed, but the likelihood of reversing the spread of the frogs is low. The USGS warned in a recent press statement that "eradicating the recently discovered population in Louisiana is improbable." The frogs reproduce quickly and will eat almost anything. Based on the results of these surveys, it seems they have already driven out all the native frogs in Riverview, the section of Audubon Park where the tadpoles were found.

Brad Glorioso, the lead USGS ecologist on the study, explained that while stowaway treefrogs have trouble surviving when they make their way to higher latitudes, the climate around New Orleans seems to be more hospitable to them. "They often end up in places with unsuitable climates, but in south Louisiana, Cuban treefrogs appear capable of withstanding seasonal cold spells by seeking appropriate refuge," he said.

For now, the best scientists can hope for is keeping the frogs from moving across the river from the zoo into one of the large public nature preserves nearby.

[h/t Popular Science]

Two Eco-Minded Kids in England Are Petitioning McDonald’s and Burger King to Nix Plastic Toys

romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images
romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images

Some kids are not content to wait around while the grown-ups sort out the future of our planet. Two of them, 9-year-old Ella and 7-year-old Caitlin, have launched a petition on Change.org requesting that McDonald’s and Burger King stop giving out plastic toys with their kid’s meals, Thrillist reports.

“Children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea,” the British girls wrote on Change.org. “We want anything they give us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.” The petition has almost 400,000 signatures so far, and their current goal is to reach 500,000.

McDonald's Happy Meal
McDonald's

Last October, UK environment minister Thérèse Coffey also implored McDonald’s to stop giving out plastic toys, suggesting instead that they develop smartphone-friendly games to accompany the meals. At the time, a UK McDonald’s spokesman acknowledged the importance of reducing plastic waste and cited their promise to switch to paper straws, but countered the assumption that the plastic toys were only used for a few minutes, telling The Telegraph that they “provide many more fun-filled hours at home, too.”

The fast food giant did study the environmental effects of their toys last year and found that they are hard to recycle, since they’re manufactured from various types of plastic. As a result, McDonald’s is researching more Earth-friendly ways to make their toys. A Burger King representative told The Wall Street Journal that it, too, is exploring “alternative toy solutions.”

But according to Ella and Caitlin, “It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.” The young activists themselves recycle as much as they can, and even hung a poster in their window about saving the planet.

You can sign their petition here, and learn how to reduce your own environmental impact.

[h/t Thrillist]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images
Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

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