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?
There seems to be an incredible will amongst amphibian conservationists to work together and share their experience. It is this willingness to collaborate that gives hope for the future of amphibian conservation. By developing networks of partners working together, pooling resources and funds, a real difference can be made. Hard-earned experience (such as in disease mitigation and control, captive breeding methods and control measures for invasive species) can be shared across the globe. Working meetings such as ACSAM II (A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar), which took place at the end of November 2014, are a great example of this effective collaboration. The meeting brought together many of the active partners working on amphibian conservation in Madagascar today to assess the progress made since the first meeting in 2006 and to develop a country-wide strategy to work together to conserve Madagascar’s incredible amphibian diversity.
Why did you join the Alliance and what are you doing to help protect amphibians?
Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group (MFG) joined the ASA as a means of increasing their partnerships in amphibian conservation. We had already formed good working collaborations within Madagascar but ASA gave MFG the opportunity to connect and reach out to more partners from around the globe and also, very importantly, with the public. Lobbying, resource sharing and collaborative fund-raising powers are far greater when multiple organisations unite and tackle issues together.
MFG’s goal is to contribute to the conservation of fauna and flora in the central eastern region of Madagascar. Due to the many threats challenging amphibians in Madagascar, MFG has become increasingly involved in amphibian conservation over the past decade. With various partners, MFG has become involved in activities ranging from disease screening (for Bd), inventorying the species present at our two main field sites (Parc Ivoloina and Betampona Natural Reserve), gathering data for the description of new species, long term monitoring of populations in Betampona, distribution mapping and a micro-habitat study of all frog species at Betampona and coordinating and carrying out distribution surveys on the recently-introduced invasive toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus). We are now embarking on developing a frog breeding unit at Parc Ivoloina to hone our captive husbandry techniques of locally-occurring species (many of which have never been kept in captivity).
What can the average person, as well as the private sector, do in order to tangibly and actively participate in amphibian conservation?
There are some very simple precautions tourists and visitors can take when visiting different countries to try to reduce the risk of disease transfer for things like amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, Bd), which is a disease responsible for large scale amphibian population declines globally. Something as simple as drying out boots, clothes and equipment between sites can really make a difference. The fungus survives well in water or in damp material even in the absence of its host but cannot survive desiccation. Similarly spraying boots with a weak bleach or Virkon solution between sites can also help to reduce the transfer of this deadly disease to new areas.
There are also many amazing amphibian conservation projects around the world; learning about them through organisations such as ASA that carefully select their partners gives the average person a far better understanding of the different factors contributing to many of the global species declines (habitat loss, disease, invasive introductions, collection for the pet trade etc.). By becoming more aware of the issues, individuals can make informed decisions (such as making sure if they want to keep pet frogs that they go to a reputable dealer who does not wild-catch animals; lobbying their own and other countries’ governments to take action through the signing of petitions). Finally, many fantastic conservation organisations are struggling to raise the funds needed to maintain and expand their programmes. Even relatively small donations can go a long way to support the important conservation and monitoring work being done.
Photos © Gonçalo M. Rosa
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