Saving Amphibians From Extinction

by Jeff Dawson, Amphibian Programme Manager - May 12, 2016

Me with E. inoptatusAs you know, Durrell works to save some of the most endangered species from extinction. You may also know that this includes a number of conservation efforts around the globe for the world’s most threatened group of vertebrates; amphibians. If you didn’t know and for those who want to know more, it is fantastic to announce our new webpages dedicated to Durrell’s  Saving Amphibians From Extinction – SAFE Programme.

Since our SAFE Programme began nearly three years ago we have developed a number of collaborations and initiated a series of new amphibian conservation projects and initiatives, all guided by our SAFE Programme Strategy. As way of introduction to the SAFE Programme I just wanted to give an outline in this blog of the varied amphibian projects we are currently involved with.

Chytrid monitoring in Madagascar

Madagascar is home to Durrell’s largest country programme so it made sense to look here as a place for us to develop projects help save what is a unique amphibian fauna. Currently most of our work in Madagascar is focused on helping develop and coordinate amphibian conservation at the national level. To this extent we co-funded and co-organised the second Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar in 2014, from which a new five-year amphibian national action plan has been developed and will soon be made publically available. Following on from this we are partnering with the Amphibian Survival Alliance and others in a major CEPF funded project to help deliver the national action plan over the next three years through a dedicated coordinator position. Additionally, we have been working with local NGO’s Association Mitsinjo in Andasibe and Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group at Parc Ivoloina to develop the captive breeding capacity in Madagascar; as well as being involved in the National Monitoring Programme for the amphibian chytrid fungus Bd.

Primary forest habitat in Massif de la Hotte Haiti (Pic: Jeff Dawson)

Over in the Western Caribbean we have begun collaborations with local NGOs on the island of Hispaniola to improve the knowledge and understanding of the habitat associations of the amphibian fauna and the impact habitat loss and fragmentation is having on particular species. Working in the Dominican Republic in the Sierra de Bahoruco and in the Massif de la Hotte region of Haiti, this information will be critical in helping develop conservation management actions for amphibians and identifying which species are most at threat, and therefore requiring more targeted action.

Eleutherodactylus thorectes, Pic Formond, Haiti

Most recently we have begun our first foray into the megadiverse region that is the Tropical Andes, with a series of collaborations with the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative (BAI). Established by an ex-DESMAN student, Arturo Muñoz, BAI is Bolivia’s only amphibian NGO. Through SAFE Durrell is working with them in their conservation efforts for the iconic Lake Titicaca water frog (Telmatobius culeus) and other Telmatobius species, by providing technical advice and support on their captive breeding and survey efforts.

Of course we also have our two longest running amphibian projects. One on our home island of Jersey undertaking head-starting for the reintroduction of the agile frog and the second which is our longest running and flagship amphibian conservation project for the mountain chicken on the island of Montserrat. This forms part of the wider Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme which is coordinated through the SAFE Programme and more information on the project can be seen in the Durrell Index.

Boophis bottaeDurrell has always worked on species which others may overlook, which compared to other species groups amphibians still are. In addition to field projects and capacity building we also intend to promote a stronger response from the global zoo and conservation community to engage and lead amphibian conservation, through undertaking and promoting leading research and engaging with these communities at conferences and events such as the upcoming World Congress of Herpetology.

We’ve set ourselves ambitious targets but believe they need to be if amphibians are to be made SAFE and look forward to telling you what and how we are doing through our SAFE webpages.