Male Mountain chicken calling on a rock. Photo © Sarah-Louise Adams
Amphibians the world over are facing probably the world’s most serious extinction crisis. What are your thoughts on the future prospects for amphibian conservation and preventing further extinctions?
With threats such as habitat loss continuing at rapid rates and diseases such as chytridiomysosis and ranavirus devastating local populations, amphibians are on a precipice and increased, coordinated action is required now to prevent them falling off. The level of attention given to amphibians by the global zoo and conservation communities in relation to other species groups such as mammals and birds is still very low, though I believe this is changing, all be it slowly, for the better. Durrell has been responsible for saving at least six birds and reptiles from extinction and I believe that if the global conservation community comes together and commits to amphibians then in 50 years we will be talking about successfully averting a conservation crisis.
Why did Durrell join the Alliance?
The importance of amphibian conservation has languished for too long within the global political and conservation processes. It is vital that the profile and urgency of amphibian conservation is raised at a global level, with effective partnerships developed and the necessary resources made available. The Alliance represents a fantastic way for organisations to raise the profile of their work, to , promote collaborative working and new partnerships and attract the all-important funds necessary to carry out amphibian conservation activities. Myself and Durrell are really pleased and excited to have joined and work with the Alliance in our goal of preventing the amphibian crisis from becoming a catastrophe.
What are you doing to help protect amphibians?
This year Durrell has launched our first dedicated single taxonomic programme, ‘Saving Amphibians From Extinction’ or SAFE (www.durrell.org/safe). SAFE’s mission is to secure the survival of amphibian species at ten sites across four of the world’s highest priority regions for amphibian conservation by 2020. To achieve this we will utilise Durrell’s wealth of experience in field conservation, captive management and training all underpinned and guided by the best science.
At each site we will progress through four stages – first we must understand the situation of the species in the wild (applying SAFEchecks) which will inform our conservation actions including any captive breeding needs (establishing SAFEhavens). To ensure long term sustainability and success we will develop key skills in local partners (building SAFEguards) and galvanise support and collaboration from the international community (promoting SAFEty in numbers).
We have kicked off SAFE with a programme of work in Madagascar focussing around the chytridiomycosis threat to the country’s amphibian fauna – undertaking chytrid monitoring at high priority sites and facilitating the development of in-country captive breeding capacity, alongside our long-standing work on the mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) in Montserrat through the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme. We are also in the process of developing projects with local partners in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Tropical Andes.
One of the most important events that Durrell is co-organising and part funding is the up-coming, A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar meeting – ACSAM2. This crucial meeting will bring together over 70 national and international experts to review conservation efforts, gather new proposals and identify targets and actions for amphibian conservation in Madagascar over the forthcoming years.
What do you think are some of the most promising developments in the fight to prevent further amphibian population declines?
Rightly, a lot of attention is being given to trying to solve chytridiomycosis. Probiotics is a very exciting area and Durrell is pleased to be helping with this research in Madagascar. Looking at ways to manage chytrid in situ, such as environmental manipulation, is an important area and something we are looking to explore as part of the next stages in our mountain chicken work. Habitat loss is still the biggest threat facing amphibians globally, and effective local engagement remains key.
What can the average person, as well as the private sector, do in order to tangibly and actively participate in amphibian conservation?
There are a number of ways that people and organisations can help. Firstly, by promoting amphibians – their beauty, weirdness, importance, plight – so more people know about them, understand them and come to care for them. Volunteering with local or charitable organisations engaged in amphibian conservation is a great way of actively making a contribution. Carrying out fundraising activities, donating or financially supporting project activities is probably the most tangible way that people can help, and more info can be found at www.durrell.org/Support.
Join The Alliance
If your organization or institution is interested in joining the Amphibian Survival Alliance please contact our Director of Communications and Partnerships Candace M. Hansen-Hendrikx to begin the conversation.
As an ASA partner you will not only demonstrate your dedication to stopping this severe extinction crisis, but also provide the much needed support to drive this initiative forward and on to success. Your support will demonstrate that inaction and indifference to this crisis are unacceptable and that we must work together to restore populations of all threatened native amphibian species within natural ecosystems worldwide.