Nov 26

You’ve probably heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” and this rings especially true for striking images of endangered species. Most people have never been lucky enough to see a whale in the wild, yet they are iconic figureheads in the conservation movement because people know what they look like and why they are special thanks to films and photographs. However, sometimes the best stories are told behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Bryophryne bustamantei

Bryophryne bustamantei

While attending and exhibiting ARKive at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, I had the unexpected opportunity to meet Alessandro Catenazzi. Alessandro studies tropical rainforest frog species at the University of California, Berkeley, and is an avid ARKive media donor, giving a face to a myriad of frog species on the long list of IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Because of Alessandro, visitors to ARKive can check out the unusually long forearms of the harlequin frog (Atelopus erythropus), the wide eyes of Pristimantis cosnipatae and the various life stages of Bryophryne bustamantei.

Always thrilled to meet an ARKive media donor, I jumped straight to the catch and asked him to tell me about the stories behind the images he captured. Alessandro was more than happy to share and talk about his work, how he studies the livelihood of these and other frogs in South America and how thrilling it is to find a species that has rarely been caught on camera. When I asked him to expand further on his work, he took on a more solemn tone and began explaining to me about the fungal infection, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that is hitting rainforest frogs hard and is especially affecting rarer species over more common ones.

Alessandro explained that the fungus spreads throughout frog populations like wildfire but treatment of captured frogs is actually quite simple. Infected frogs can easily be treated with antifungal medications to kill the fungus and save the frog. If an infection breaks out locally, scientists and volunteers can work to locate and treat frogs in the immediate area to create a safety zone and effectively slow the spread of infection. However, locating and treating the thousands upon thousands of frogs in the rainforest is an insurmountable feat.

While learning all about the physical and biological characteristics of the various frog species Alessandro has captured on camera is incredibly educational, hearing the background story of the ecological struggles these species face adds another dimension to the story behind the camera. Films and photos of threatened species are not just a fascinating way to learn about the species most at risk from extinction but offer a unique gateway to encourage people to explore beyond the image and find out that an image may not just be worth a thousand words but, through education and action, could be worth a thousand species.

See more of Alessandro’s fantastic images.

To see a list of other ARKive media donors who undoubtedly have amazing wildlife conservation stories to tell, check out our comprehensive ARKive media donor list.

Liana Vitali, ARKive Science, Education and Outreach Officer, Wildscreen USA