When Jeff presented his research proposal to my university class at the Durrell Training Academy, I was really excited. It was the first amphibian proposal I had seen, and it was a social science study, which was something I thought I could do well. So over the next many months, I developed and conducted my master’s thesis with the aim to answer a few questions relating to amphibian captive breeding programmes. When do you call a programme successful, and when has it failed? What makes a programme succeed? What common barriers keep programmes from succeeding? What resources do they need the most? How can the wider conservation community help support these programmes? How can they learn from past failures?
And who better to answer these questions than the experts themselves? So I interviewed captive breeding managers from a range of tropical countries about their proudest moments, and their biggest regrets. It was an incredible privilege to be given this information first hand by the people at the forefront of amphibian conservation, and I felt like I owed it to all of them to put their wise words to good use.
That’s why I approached my Supervisor, and then Saving Amphibians From Extinction Programme Manager at Durrell, Jeff Dawson. I wanted to be given more time to work on this information, in an internship at Durrell’s office in Bath. I spent my internship preparing a report for the Amphibian Ark, writing and editing these guidelines, presenting my work at the BIAZA Stepping Up to Conservation Conference and drafting a scientific publication. I also got to participate in Monitoring and Evaluation work with the Conservation Knowledge team, and prepare social media content. My time with Durrell was incredibly rewarding. I was made to feel like a part of the knowledgeable team and enjoyed working on my own tasks. I still volunteer one day a week to help wrap up a bioacoustic project and I love the opportunity to come back into the office.
Publishing these guidelines however is the highlight of this journey which has lasted almost two years. The guidelines are publicly available from the Amphibian Ark webpage here, where they will provide a useful resource to current and future amphibian captive breeding programmes. The guidelines contain three sections. The first section introduces the guidelines and amphibian captive breeding programmes. It also reflects on the impact of human capacity and decision making. The second section outlines “the current picture”: an overview of resources and partners to programmes. It includes an operational model which was developed to illustrate the way in which programmes operate and progress through time. The third section is the main body of the guidelines and contains advice and information from the interviewed managers, categorised by the type of barrier or enabler discussed. Each topic contains a guide for programme partners, and a list of relevant tools, with links to PDFs and other websites. Some categories include quotes to illustrate points or provide real-life examples. This part of the guidelines provides lessons learnt from programmes around the world, allowing managers to plan for future events.
The guidelines were produced with support and guidance from Jeff Dawson at Durrell, Kevin Johnson at the Amphibian Ark, Ben Tapley from the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, and the master’s was conducted at Imperial College London, with my supervisor Andrew Knight. I am grateful to the 25 participants for their time and insights, and to Durrell for giving me the opportunity to continue this work. If you have any feedback on the guidelines, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org