SHELBY TWP., Mich. (WJBK) - Tiny mantillas, huge salamanders and colorful dart frogs are just a few of the amphibians greeting visitors at the National Amphibian Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo.
It's an important part of our environment as amphibians are quickly disappearing. Experts say it's primarily because of climate change.
"All over the world amphibian populations are declining dramatically. We're estimating about half of all amphibian species are considered threatened or endangered right now, and that is a huge problem," said Ruth Marcec, director.
It's a huge problem they're trying to combat with conservation efforts at the center and by trying to engage young people in the community, like the mayor of Amphibiville -- 11-year-old Trinity Favazza.
"Amphibians are actually more sensitive to environmental change than humans and other animals. I think that we need to respect them just like we would respect our friends and family," she said.
Trinity is in sixth grade at Switzer Elementary School in Shelby Township. Two years ago she wrote an essay for the zoo and became the mayor of Amphibiville. Now she's one of only 10 students nationwide to be awarded the President's Environmental Youth Award from the EPA. She visited Washington, D.C. last month to receive the award.
"I was a little nervous at first but I started to think this is amazing, this is going to be one of the biggest memories of my entire life," she said.
It's a national honor but Trinity's love of amphibians started at home visiting fields and streams and frogs with her dad.
"My dad would tell about them to me so ever since then I've grown up with them and I just love them," she said.
She wants others to do the same -- amphibians are critical to controlling mosquitos, bugs and mice. They keep the water and soil clean and plants healthy, but Marcec says global warming is threatening their habitats, their metabolism and making them more susceptible to disease. That's why she says it's so important to get everyone - especially our young people - to care about these creatures now and well into the future.
"Getting people young involved and getting the community excited about that is critical to our success," she said. "I think together especially with help from people like Trinity, as a community we can all work together to bring them back."
Trinity plans to do her part. Her question is - will you join her?
"We need to make the world a better place and just clean up the environment as much as we can," she said.