Saving species from extinction
Click to read: Durrell awarded over £500,000

Durrell awarded over £500,000

Durrell is proud to be leading two of the twenty five main projects awarded through Defra's Darwin initiative, which as the UK government's leading funding for global conservation awarded almost £6 million to projects worldwide.

 

Durrell are currently working to help preserve two of the species selected within the scheme which are in danger of extinction; the mountain chicken – which is in fact a frog and the world’s most endangered duck the Madagascan pochard.

The Darwin Initiative provides UK expertise and funding to support wildlife conservation projects in developing countries and UK overseas territories.

Click here for further information on the mountain chicken funding,
Or the Madagascan pochard funding.

The Mountain Chicken

New hope for Critically Endangered Montserrat mountain chicken in the shadow of the Soufriere volcano

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is leading a new 3-year initiative funded to the tune of £237,000 by Defra’s Darwin Initiative to support the Caribbean island of Montserrat to protect and restore this unique and enigmatic frog. A need made more urgent by the latest eruption of the volcano last week.

Gerardo with mountain chicken

Gerardo Garci in Pelican Ghaut transect 
Central Hills National Park Montserrat
 

With its strange name, the mountain chicken frog is a very special amphibian. Easily capable of reaching sizes up of 20cm in length and 1kg in weight, this is one of the largest frogs in the world. It also shows a level of parental care very rare amongst amphibians, as females nurture their young in protective foam nests until they emerge as fully formed frogs.

But this frog, like so many amphibians, teeters on the brink of extinction. Once found on a number of islands in the Eastern Caribbean, due to over-exploitation and introduced predators, the frog became restricted to just two: Dominica and Montserrat. On Dominica the arrival of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis (chytrid) in 2002, decimated the population and only a handful of individuals remain.

Montserrat was once the idyllic playground of millionaires and artists such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones. But the island is dominated by the highly active Soufriere volcano, which in 1995 erupted to devastating effect. Whilst making more than half of the island un-inhabitable, this eruption destroyed large areas of forest that was home to species such as the mountain chicken. In spite of this, the population of mountain chickens remained largely stable until chytrid finally entered the island in February 2009. Within less than a year, the majority of this last population was dead.

As an emergency response Durrell, together with the Government of Montserrat, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Parken Zoo and North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo), established the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme, which removed a number of frogs from the island, and established a conservation breeding programme in four European zoos to breed frogs in bio-secure conditions for release back onto the island. However a significant effort is needed to prepare and initiate the release of animals back to their native habitat.

Durrell’s Head of Conservation Programmes, Dr. Andrew Terry, said, “All the partners had to respond to the plight of the mountain chicken very quickly. With support from the Darwin Initiative we will be able to establish a sustainable basis to secure the long-term future for this unique species.”

The funding will support the development of capacity within Montserrat to build up our understanding of the species and its threats, identify suitable locations to release individuals and to then put frogs back on the island. The partners will monitor the success of the trial releases closely and share this experience globally to support the fight against the spread of chytrid around the world.

Madagascan pochard

Efforts to save the world’s rarest duck receive timely boost

Efforts to establish a breeding programme to save the world’s rarest duck, the Madagascar Pochard, have received a boost from Defra’s Darwin Initiative.

Madagascar Pochard - Owen Joiner
Madagascar Pochard 2 Owen Joiner Wildfowl
and Wetlands Trust
 

£282,000 over three years from Defra’s Darwin Initiative will help to fully establish the breeding programme, which was started late last year as an emergency measure following the news that only six females remained in the wild. As well as supporting breeding and rearing the birds, the money will pay to train Malagasy conservationists, develop a recovery plan and identify lakes in the region where the ducks can potentially be reintroduced. Fundraising is now underway to build a conservation-breeding centre for the project in Madagascar.

Last year, an expedition confirmed that the remaining population of only 20 ducks at a single location contained just six females and that none of the young from the previous year had survived. With the species facing such a precarious future, a unique partnership formed to ensure the ducks’ survival: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), The Peregrine Fund, whose scientist rediscovered the duck, and the Government of Madagascar.

In November, the partnership managed to establish a safety-net population. With minimal disturbance to the adult ducks, the team were able to remove three clutches of eggs from nests and have been able to rear the 23 ducklings that hatched in a temporary facility.

Durrell’s Project Leader, Dr Glyn Young, says, “This dramatic mission was a vital first step but now we need to establish a sustainable breeding programme and to identify suitable locations to reintroduce ducks in the future. The Darwin Initiative support will allow us to do this.”

WWT’s Peter Cranswick added, “This money effectively means that the immediate risk of extinction for the Madagascar Pochard has been averted. Many challenges lie ahead for its long-term survival - not least, to ensure that the needs of both local Malagasy people and the Pochard can be harmonised at key wetlands - but the project is now well and truly underway.”

Notes to editor

The Madagascar pochard (Aythya innotata) had become so rare that in 2004 it was thought to have gone extinct and been lost forever. However, in 2006, a tiny population was discovered high in the mountains of Madagascar’s central plateau. Having disappeared elsewhere through the combined effects of habitat loss and competition from introduced fish into the lakes it inhabited, this remote location offered the only remaining haven for the species.

The Darwin Initiative was announced by the UK Government at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and is implemented by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Darwin Initiative assists countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to meet their objectives under one or more of the three major biodiversity Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES); and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), through the funding of collaborative projects which draw on UK biodiversity expertise. The key objective of the Darwin Initiative is to draw on expertise relevant to biodiversity from within the United Kingdom, to work with local partners in countries rich in biodiversity but poor in resources, to achieve the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

USD$24,852 of additional support for the project has been given by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

The emergency mission to extract three clutches of eggs in 2009 was funded largely by the Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa, a major supporter of environmental projects. Additional support was received from the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme is a collaboration between Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Parken Zoo in Sweden, North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo) and the Governments of Montserrat and Dominica, to restore the mountain chicken back to its former range. The Consortium’s objective is to restore healthy populations of the mountain chicken on its native islands of Montserrat and Dominica and transfer the expertise from this effort to local conservation workers and globally to the conservation of other amphibians.

Montserrat is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the Eastern Caribbean with a population of approximately 5,000 (two-thirds of a population of around 12,000, left following the eruption of the volcano in 1995). The island is home to a rich biodiversity that is primarily located around the Centre Hills region.

The Darwin Initiative was announced by the UK Government at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and is implemented by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Darwin Initiative assists countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to meet their objectives under one or more of the three major biodiversity Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES); and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), through the funding of collaborative projects which draw on UK biodiversity expertise.

The key objective of the Darwin Initiative is to draw on expertise relevant to biodiversity from within the United Kingdom, to work with local partners in countries rich in biodiversity but poor in resources, to achieve the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

Posted 3 March 2010

 
comments powered by Disqus