As 2015 comes to a close, we’d like to share 15 of our most notable accomplishments and stories from this year, made possible by supporters and friends like you!
STORY #1: The year began with the development of two major partnerships for us. Firstly, we were asked to join the National Steering Committee of the US-based Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) and secondly, a new innovative partnership was launched with AmphibiaWeb who is now acting as the Science Zone for the Alliance. Both of these partnerships are helping the Alliance to engage in a range of issues from science-based communications to policy level interactions.
STORY #2: In January, we started increasing our focus on building support and momentum behind conservation efforts in Madagascar. We began by working with partners and donors to support the development of the second Amphibian Conservation Strategy for Madagascar. We invested in a feasibility study to ascertain the potential for eradicating the invasive Asian toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus from the island.
STORY #3: February saw the publication of “Widespread presence of the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in wild amphibian communities in Madagascar” in Scientific Reports highlighting the immediate need to respond to the threat of Chytrid in Madagascar. We have been working extensively to help fund chytrid research, including disease mitigation research, and monitoring in Madagascar.
Painted mantella (Mantella baroni) © Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
STORY #4: One of the key strategic priorities for the Alliance during 2015-2016 is to move forward amphibian trade and policy issues. In March, two simultaneous Amphibian Trade Workshops took place with experts from around the world attending. The workshops were held in Singapore, courtesy of The Singapore Zoo, and Washington DC hosted by Defenders of Wildlife. Afterwards a list of approximately 400 species was identified, with many having conservation or research action associated with them. These included a number of species potentially warranting CITES proposals for which the Alliance is now working on producing and aiming to build political support for.
STORY #5: March also saw the Alliance’s first major press release of the year announcing the discovery of the shape-shifting Mutable frog (Pristimantis mutabilis) in Ecuador that can do what no other vertebrate has ever been documented to do—rapidly change skin texture from smooth to spiny. This exciting discovery also underscored the critical need for habitat protection in the Ecuadorian Andes as farming practices, urban sprawl and mining continue to put pressure on these cloud forests.
Mutable rainfrog (Pristimantis mutabilis) © Courtesy of the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
STORY #6: At the end of the first quarter the Alliance announced its first milestone in supporting projects with half a million dollars being invested through their various grant programs including the Leapfrog Conservation Fund and Seed Grant Program. As 2015 comes to an end, we’re excited to say that we’ve now invested $1,421,986.05!
STORY #7: In 2015 the Alliance and IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) joined forces with the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium (ACRS) organizing committee to fully endorse and engage in the development of this amphibian-focused symposium. Excitingly, the 2015 ACRS in April was the largest attended ACRS meeting to date. We are now in the process of finalizing the next ACRS to be held in South Africa in January 2016. We hope to see you there!
STORY #8: April also saw the release of the latest version of the Global Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP). First created in 2007, the ACAP had not been updated since then. The ASG, working with the Alliance, formed a number of thematic working groups that actively moved forward on the development of the action plan. With the document created and posted online, we are now working to build support for it implementation and coordinating with the ASG on the development of a reporting and updating mechanism.
STORY #9: As the Alliance continues to finds new and innovative ways of communicating amphibian conservation issues, we also partnered with the Disappearing Frogs Project (DFP). Through interactive art installations the DFP is working together to raise awareness of global amphibian declines, inspiring people to take personal action to protect these incredible species, while also providing a unique opportunity for artists to support amphibian conservation, education and research. This year’s exhibition ran from April 16 – 25 in Rock Hill, North Carolina at the Community Performance Center during Rock Hill’s Come-See-Me Festival. The Disappearing Frogs Project went on to support three seed grant projects with the proceeds raised during the exhibition. Plans are now being finalized for at least three more exhibitions starting in February 2016 in North Carolina.
STORY #10: The Alliance was asked in May to join a newly formed National Disease Task Team formed by PARC. The new Task Team is made up of biologists, veterinarians, and wildlife managers from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. It is through this Task Team that we are able to facilitate and guide communication, collaboration and responses to outbreaks of herpetofaunal diseases among PARC regions, federal and state agencies, and partners.
STORY #11: A team of researchers from the Centre for Sustainability, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and partners re-discovered two amphibian species thought lost to science in their natural habitat on the lush island province of Palawan in the Philippines: the Palawan toadlet (Pelophryne albotaeniata) and the Malatgan River caecilian (Ichythyophis weber). These re-discoveries were two of many exciting results from a biodiversity survey in this region, and part of a larger project involving Global Wildlife Conservation, the Amphibian Survival Alliance and Rainforest Trust to create a new reserve called Cleopatra’s Needle Protected Area.
STORY #12: Along with the Madagascan conservation organization Vondrona Ivon’ny Fampandrosoanavif and our US-based partners Global Wildlife Conservation and Rainforest Trust, the Alliance provided the monetary support necessary to create the Ankaratra Massif Reserve. Officially gazetted in August, the Ankaratra Massif Reserve now protects some of Madagascar’s rarest amphibians including the Williams’ Bright-eyed frog and the Madagascar frog, both of which are found nowhere else in the world. Agricultural expansion, overgrazing and uncontrolled fires had led to dramatic habitat loss, pushing these species toward extinction.
STORY #13: Two rare salamander species lost to science for nearly 40 years were not only rediscovered, but the Alliance and a consortium of international groups protected some of the last remaining forest home for these salamanders this month. Critical habitat for the Finca Chiblac salamander (Bradytriton silus) and the Long-limbed salamander (Nyctanolis pernix) in Guatemala’s Cuchumatanes mountain range had been slated for imminent clearing for coffee production. With financial support from the Alliance and others, the land purchase resulted in the creation of the San Isidro Amphibian Reserve, the first nature reserve in the western highlands of Guatemala. Finca San Isidro also is home to the recently discovered Cuchumatan golden toad (Incilius aurarius) and the Black-eyed Treefrog (Agalychnis moreletii). Jackson’s climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) was also discovered within a few hundred meters of the reserve. The amphibian has evaded detection for 38 years, making it one of the world’s Top 10 “Most Wanted” Amphibians. Ten of the 20 amphibian species that live in or near Finca San Isidro are classified as Critically Endangered or Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Local and international scientists and conservationists had identified the area as one of the highest priorities for immediate conservation action.
Long-limbed salamander (Nyctanolis pernix) © Robin Moore, GWC/ASA.
STORY #14: As part of ongoing Bsal efforts, the Alliance offered Bsal testing kits for pet salamanders and newts. We had run a similar campaign in November 2014 and all samples then came back negative. During this round, we distributed 500 kits and results are expected in the new year. At the same time, we have also been advising the pet community on how to properly bleach and dispose of wastewater, as well as the importance of not releasing pet salamanders out into the wild to minimize the chances of Bsal entering North American ecosystems via the pet trade.
STORY #15: The Amphibian Survival Alliance and its partners, published a paper in December outlining the conservation community’s proactive efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of Batrachocytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Not only does the paper summarize the swift action the conservation community has already taken to prevent the spread of Bsal in North America, it also lays out plans to respond swiftly if it does arrive.
Thank you for your support over the past year which has made all of this possible! While we are happy to report on all our successes so far, there is still so much more to do and we hope that you would consider making a gift today to help the Alliance continue to expand our impact even more in 2016.
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