Our amphibian aspirations and the Durrell London Lecture 2016

Amphibians are the most threatened and most overlooked vertebrate group in the world, with over 40% of all known species believed to be in danger of extinction. Despite this, they receive little attention from the media and even less attention from funders. Often referred to as ‘little brown jobs’ by Gerald Durrell; these are the species that seemingly no-one cares about.

A rescue operation, headed by Durrell, has kicked into action to prevent a catastrophe for amphibians worldwide. By 2020, Durrell aim to secure the survival of amphibian species at ten sites across four of the world’s highest priority regions for amphibian conservation as part of the SAFE campaign ( but we need your support.

Why amphibians? Amphibians are vital to planet earth and fundamental to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They are an important food source for a wide variety of other species and are hugely influential in the control of invertebrate populations. The knock-on impacts throughout the ecosystem from losing amphibians would undoubtedly be catastrophic. However the potential impact of their loss on humans is also of paramount concern. Amphibian skin contains a myriad of different types of peptides which have the potential for pharmaceutical purposes; they have already been used to develop painkillers and anti-cancer drugs. This raises the question of what potential medicinal benefits and knowledge may be lost as more amphibian species become extinct. As species disappear, so do potential treatments.

Why Durrell? Durrell has been involved in amphibian conservation for many years. The restoration of the Mallorca midwife toad to its native island was lead by Durrell and has resulted in the species being downgraded from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Durrell also successfully united the last remaining male and female mountain chicken frogs on Monserrat in collaboration with Zoological Society of London and Chester Zoo.

By working with the wider zoo community, partner conservation organisations, local communities and governments, Durrell has the know-how to deliver effective amphibian conservation at scale and to prevent this crisis before it is too late.

On the 3rd of November, over 250 amphibian enthusiasts and Durrell members gathered in London for our annual Durrell Lecture which saw presentations from experts working in Bolivia, Montserrat and Madagascar; three of the priority regions for amphibian conservation. Kindly sponsored by Thrive Renewables and Locate Jersey, the evening helped us to kick-start our fundraising efforts to target £50,000 worth of funding to support our SAFE programmes in 2017 but we need to do more and believe we have the skills and knowledge to make a difference.

We have a unique approach that has saved some of the world’s most threatened species and are proud to be one of the first conservation organisations to have a ‘key performance indicator’ so closely aligned to our mission. The Durrell Red List Index of Species Survival demonstrates that at least six species are alive today that would have otherwise been lost forever if it were not for Durrell and its conservation partners.

Invest in Durrell in the SAFE knowledge that you really are saving species.