In Captivity

The Threats and Challenges

There is currently limited captive breeding capacity and more species in need of conservation breeding programs than there are programs established. Although there are now more resources being invested in amphibian conservation than ever before, relative to other taxa amphibians remain grossly underfunded. Amphibian captive husbandry expertise is sometimes lacking in the countries which support the greatest amphibian biodiversity, this is compounded by the fact that usually, the countries with the highest amphibian diversity are also the countries where the greatest proportion of amphibians are threatened. Data on life history and environmental parameters are lacking for many species and life stages. This paucity of information has the potential to undermine programs for species which are established where little to nothing is known about the species biology, ecology and habitat / microhabitat requirements. Captive breeding programs are often seen as a measure of last resort and the establishment of a captive breeding program is often postponed until numbers in the wild are dangerously low. This can greatly reduce the chances of establishing a viable captive breeding program due to the issues inherent with small population sizes and the time potentially required to develop species-specific husbandry techniques. Some amphibians fail to thrive and breed in captivity under the conditions currently provided to them. The husbandry requirements of amphibians are more complex than previously thought and for many species that require captive breeding programs, the husbandry requirements are unknown.

Because the identification and neutralization of threats are such fundamental first steps in species recovery, reintroductions themselves can be risky without a full understanding of these issues. Although this problem is particularly acute in parts of the world where there are high levels of amphibian diversity but a poor understanding of their natural history, some well-researched species in Europe and North America continue to pose challenges in this respect. Even if the species are well-understood in themselves, climate and environmental change may result in conditions under which new threats can emerge and thrive. Novel pathogens and invasive species pose a particular problem here. Reintroduction may therefore involve releasing animals into an environment that is very different from that which the source animals originally came.

Taxonomy is often the basis of priority action in conservation yet the complexities associated with amphibian taxonomy frequently result in unanswered questions and challenges when addressing conservation issues.

The Solutions

As new threats emerge and more species become threatened, there is a risk that the captive breeding community will be unable to respond. With Alliance Partners we are working to develop a responsive network that is able to deal with any emergency situations and with a focus on getting species back into the wild once threats have been mitigated.

To address the many challenges associated with successful reintroductions, the Alliance is working with Partners to gain a better understanding of what methods are effective and ineffective when reintroducing amphibians to the wild.

Our Partners are also working to reinforce the importance of taxonomy while building a network of institutions and individuals that are able to help fill data gaps and address concerns.

Putting the plan into action

The Amphibian Survival Alliance is an alliance of action and turn the ACAP priorities into real action for amphibians. Here are some of our latest projects:

Current Priority Actions
  • Ensure that conservation needs assessments for priority countries with high amphibian biodiversity are completed.
  • Develop and update annually the emergency response plans for various situations.
  • Collect environmental/habitat data during emergency collection trips to start informing husbandry and equipment kits for deployment with each rapid response team.
  • Identify the areas in which there is the greatest need for amphibian husbandry capacity building.
  • Develop and update annually a list of people with conservation husbandry experience.
  • Develop and update annually a list of facilities and practitioners.
  • Research needs identified in advance for each program species.
  • Assess and prioritize species on a national level for their ex situconservation actions.
  • Establish an advisory committee that will update the captive breeding community on how to respond to new threats.
  • Identify major medical, nutrition, husbandry concerns/gaps for amphibian programs and prioritize research efforts.
  • Develop and update annually a list of potential trouble-shooters who could advise husbandry practitioners on how to implement changes in management strategies.
  • Ensure all institutions providing internships are employing current best practice protocols and husbandry standards.
  • Based on existing and up-to-date research, develop and then review annually a manual for the controlling of diseases in amphibian assurance colonies and reintroduction programs.
  • Ensure that specific aspects of biosecurity are outlined in a program implementation tool.
  • Ensure that program managers and staff understand the importance of biosecurity and how to implement relevant protocols.
  • Ensure that new information/protocols are widely distributed as they become available.
  • Publicize ex situ programs requiring support quarterly through Alliance and Partner communications channels.
  • Generate and promote evidence-based husbandry protocols through the establishment of an online open access journal on amphibian husbandry updated.
  • Update and circulate amphibian population management guideline annually.
  • Ensure captive breeding program managers understand how to properly manage the amphibian populations they are responsible for and provide support as required.
  • Approach veterinarians and wildlife epidemiologists to ensure that new methods/techniques are filtered down to husbandry practitioners.
  • Develop a plan of action for diseases where there is no reliable screening and/or treatment in the event of an outbreak.
  • Develop and disseminate disease risk assessments for known amphibian diseases which have the potential to undermine captive breeding programs.
  • Develop an international center for captive breeding and research of priority species.
  • Carry out systematic evidence review/meta-analysis of factors affecting reintroduction success and identify research shortfalls and most appropriate methods.
  • Refine protocols for amphibian reintroductions.
  • Continue to carry out, support and disseminate research aimed at identifying threats, such as novel pathogens and invasive species.
  • Assess ‘reintroduceability’ of species on the basis of data on (1) current population status; (2) potential for threat neutralization; (3) available habitat; (4) national and local stakeholder support; (5) availability of stock for release; (6) viability of reintroduced population; (7) inability of the species to respond to alternative interventions (e.g., habitat restoration); (8) Life history characteristics, particularly generation time; fecundity and mode of reproduction.
  • Continue to work with biostatisticians to ensure that new developments in statistical modelling are included within survey design and analysis protocols.
  • Continue to conduct reintroductions with experimental design and through an adaptively managed program that allows us to learn more about how to successfully establish the priority species.
  • Create communication tools to demonstrate the importance of taxonomy.
  • Identify the large amphibian collections around the world and highlight these as centers of excellence.
  • Ensure the centers are up-to-date and partnering with each other and the database information is correct.
  • Identify areas that have a lack of taxonomists.
  • Identify future taxonomists in Gap Areas and build partnerships with centers of excellence.
  • Facilitate identification of amphibian species listed in CITES by law enforcement officers through the development of a pictorial guide.
  • Develop materials to help with species identifications (e.g., field guides).
The Amphibian Survival Alliance is compiling a growing library of materials to help with species identifications (e.g., field guides). Please contact us if you would like your manual/guide added to this library. View library
Conservation resources are limited, and with thousands of threatened species in need of help, the Conservation Needs Assessment process—managed by Amphibian Survival Alliance Partner Amphibian Ark—seeks to objectively and consistently identify priority species and their immediate conservation needs. Learn more
Four times per year, the Amphibian Survival Alliance promotes Amphibian Ark’s ex situ projects which require additional funding support through our magazine, FrogLog. Read more

Captive Breeding
Working Group

Learn more

Working Group

Learn more

Taxonomy & Systematics
Working Group

Learn more