ZSL’s Amphibian Thematic Group has had a busy year. In April, ZSL hosted a symposium which approached chytrid fungi and ranaviruses as a combined threat to amphibians. Researchers and on-the-ground conservationists outlined the issues and reported on the outcomes of field mitigations and went on to develop strategies for combating rapidly emerging mixed infections that are already threatening global amphibian biodiversity.
The Mountain Chicken Recovery Program (of which, ZSL is a partner) is currently preparing to release 27 Zoo bred mountain chicken frogs on Montserrat where they recently became extinct. The frogs will be released into predator-proof enclosures where the habitat will be modified to make it less favourable for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the primary driver of mountain chicken frog population declines.
ZSL staff members, in partnership with various entities, have also been involved in 27 peer reviewed publications, including a study that showed the UK’s wild newt populations seem to be free of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans; data was gathered from swabbing more than 2,400 wild newts in ponds across the UK and from newts found dead by members of the public that had been submitted to ZSL’s Garden Wildlife Health project for post mortem examination. Another study showed that historic trends in mass-mortality events attributed to ranavirosis were found to match the recent pattern of increased temperatures, with disease outbreaks predicted to become more severe, more widespread and occurring over a greater proportion of the year within the next few decades, if carbon emissions continue at their current rate.
Two new fellowships have started work on EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) amphibian species in the Western Ghats of India; they are focusing on the galaxy frog and the Kottigehar dancing frog by obtaining key information on habitat requirements and breeding ecology to inform conservation of the target species. Work on the El Rincón stream frog (Argentina) has continued and there have been improvements in ex situ facilities, native habitats have been restored and captive-bred individuals have been reintroduced to sites from which the species had gone extinct. An EDGE scale-up award to a previous fellow, to support the effective habitat management of Alchichica Lake in Mexico – the only home of the distinctive Taylor’s Salamander.
ZSL London Zoo rehomed four Chinese giant salamanders that were seized by UK Border Force, one of which is now exhibited in the reptile and amphibian house at London Zoo. This Critically Endangered EDGE species has been the focus of a long-term project coordinated by ZSL in China and the exhibit showcases this work and the threats posed to this iconic amphibian. ZSL staff supported Amphibian and Reptile Conservation in the head-starting and disease surveillance aspects of the pool frog reintroduction programme.
Finally, British Comedian, author, writer and frog enthusiast Stephen Fry lent his voice to an emotive new animation which highlights the impact that ranavirus is having on amphibians in Great Britainhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=326&v=Jg6lJUNffV4.
Photo: Galaxy frog (Melanobatrachus indicus ) ©Benjamin Tapley ZSL