out of africa: frogs in demand

Join Professor Louis du Preez and Marius Burger as they investigate what they believe is the reason for the worldwide decline of amphibians…

programme information


1 x 60'

Production Company

Homebrew Film





Episode Information

The joy of knowing that you are pregnant and that your genetic material will live on in your newborn baby might be the cause of the rapid global decline of amphibians… In the late 1920’s it was discovered that if urine from a pregnant women was injected subcutaneously into a female clawed frog, the frog will spawn. This developed into the first commercial pregnancy test and from the early 1930’s until the early 1960’s large numbers of clawed frogs were exported from South Africa to various worldwide destinations for this purpose. Could it be that this pregnancy test was also responsible for the global decline of amphibians? Frogs from every continent around the world have suffered in recent times from unexplained high death rates, resulting in various species undergoing severe population reductions and pushing others over the edge of extinction. There is a disease that is quickly spreading throughout the globe, called Chytridiomycosis and has been identified as the most likely cause of massive frog population declines in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Tanzania and America. One third of species are currently under threat and the rate of species extinction is the highest in recorded history. Herpetologists from South Africa believe they might have found the answer. Join Professor Louis du Preez and Marius Burger as they investigate what they believe is the reason for the decline of amphibians… A critical factor in understanding and controlling the impacts of this disease is identifying the geographic region of the amphibian chytrid fungus. This will help to determine how and from where the disease is spreading. Chytrid occur naturally in most frog species from Africa, but with the export of the clawed frog from Africa for pregnancy testing all over the world, this parasite got a free air ticket to the rest of the world where the natural frog population has not been exposed to this disease. Our team goes in search of the clues to the declining amphibians and how the use of the clawed frog in pregnancy tests all over the world might have contributed to the spread of the fungus.

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