Hey, kid! Like toads and salamanders? Detroit Zoo needs you to be mayor


Royal Oak – The point of an Amphibiville Mayor at the Detroit Zoo is to give a human face to Wyoming toads and Japanese giant salamanders.

Wait … let’s rephrase that.

Ruth Marcec-Greaves, who oversees the zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center and the surrounding wetland village, will tell you they already have perfect faces. Where some take a look at a salamander or notice a newt and withdraw: “I look at you and think you are the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

What the next young mayor can do is put a human face on to save them. The application window is open until the end of the month, and when Master or Miss Mayor do the job as well as the incumbent, the trips can be pretty cool.

Candidates must be between 7 and 12 years of age in Michigan. You need to write an essay of no more than 100 words about what you can do to help amphibians. And it helps, if you see something crawling out from under a pile of sticks near a pond, say “Wow!” instead of “Eww!”

The current incumbent Trinity Favazza, 14, from Shelby Township is unique under two decades of Amphibiville mayors in that she was selected for a second term and this was extended to 2021 due to the pandemic. It is typical, said Marcec-Graves, of being exposed to the wonders of forest frogs and the like early on.

Your father Chrysler Mill builder Thomas Favazza, “would spend a lot of time with me in nature,” she said. At the age of 3 or 4 she explored ponds and parks with him and “saw things up close”.

As she got older, she said, she noticed that few girls shared her fascination with insects and amphibians, let alone their willingness to take them into their hands.

Amphibiville at the Detroit Zoo in need of a new mayor.

But “just because it’s not a fluffy little cute furry animal doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter that much,” she said. “We should all take care of them equally.”

Marcec-Greaves, 34, built a career out of the same feeling.

A veterinarian with a Ph.D. In the amphibian replica, she recalls taking her favorite animal to the shelter at the University of Illinois Veterinary School – an aquatic salamander called the Mexican axolotl with “tiny gills on the side of the head, almost like a feather boa. I think it’s charming. “

Even in the midst of professional animal lovers soon to come, she was told it was gross. Neither she nor the axolotl cared about it.

Affected by human encroachment, climate change, disease and predators, amphibians that consider nearly half of all species threatened or worse, “are in dire need of help,” Marcec-Greaves said. “I wanted to be there for you. I wanted to make sure they had a champion. “

Trinity, an eighth grader at Malow Junior High, has already identified a tripartite approach to the same goal.

The huge salamander habitat at the Detroit Zoo.

There’s field research, she said, which, among other things, meant recording frog calls in parks to help scientists learn more about what populations are where.

There are policies, a big-net category that included the losing side when Michigan lawmakers extended the 2018 frog hunting season to all year and made it legal to spear them in the light of the flashlights.

And she said there’s social media and general awareness: talking to classes during Michigan Amphibian Conservation Awareness Week, maintaining the website, which she calls an amphibian action, or pulling more than 100 kids to a park to promote amphibians on rocks paint and distribute them.

The first State Amphibian Awareness Week was launched in December 2018 by former Governor Rick Snyder – after Trinity, then a sixth grader, leaned on him to do so.

Cotton family wetlands at the Detroit Zoo.

“She’s pretty amazing,” said her mother, Angel Favazza, and while Favazza may be biased, she has souvenirs to back up the claim.

Trinity was invited to speak at an amphibian conservation symposium in Manchester, England, was awarded the Eco Hero of Action for Nature award in San Francisco, and was one of ten students eligible for the 2018 President’s Environmental Youth Award in Washington, DC

The mayor of Amphibiville unfortunately has no travel budget, although at least her flight and accommodation were picked up from the conference for the trip to England.

“It’s a stretch to pay for some of these things,” said her mother, who teaches AP English at Sterling Heights Stevenson High School, but she and Thomas wondered, “When are we ever going to get the opportunity again?”

Then the honors and family outings kept coming, “and we thought we’d better keep saving.”

Trinity was invited to speak at an amphibian conservation symposium in Manchester, England, received the award for the Eco Hero of Action for Nature in San Francisco, and was one of ten students eligible for the 2018 President's Environmental Youth Award in Washington, DC

It remains to be seen whether the environment will affect Trinity’s ultimate career choice. She has other interests, including competitive cheerleading, two dogs and a cat.

On the other hand, it’s the rare eighth grader who keeps three colorful poison dart frogs in an aquarium in the living room. Whatever she does for a living, she expects amphibians and their cause to stay close to her heart.

For the next mayor, essays must be submitted by April 30th, either by email to [email protected] or by mail to the Mayor of Amphibiville, Detroit Zoological Society, 8450 W. 10 Mile Rd., Royal Oak, MI 48067 All should include the applicant’s name, age, address and telephone number.

The winner will receive a one-year family zoo pass, a two-year term and a plaque with their name in the amphibious center.

The new mayor’s voters won’t say much, but some of them will jump up and down.

The Kihansi spray toad at the Detroit Zoo.

[email protected]

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn.


Dusty Kennedy