Amphibians are the most threatened vertebrate taxon on Earth, dealing with massive population declines due to habitat loss, introduced species, and emerging infectious diseases among others. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the global distribution of threats to amphibians strongly overlap with regions of highest amphibian diversity. In Uganda, only basic amphibian conservation efforts have been conducted so far.

In this context, Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO) is Uganda’s first nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to amphibian conservation. EWCO is working to promote conservation of endangered amphibians through research, conservation education, habitat restoration, advocacy and community engagement, including provision of alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on habitat resource use. Our projects combine basic research, awareness raising, citizen science, and conservation activities.


EWCO recognizes the importance of public education and communication as an integral part of conservation outreach, with the ultimate goal of changing attitudes towards conservation, resulting in pro-conservation behavior. With this in mind, we are currently working with Dr. Leida Do Santos, co-chair of the Communication & Education Working Group at the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, to develop the first Amphibian Communication and Education Strategy for Uganda.

In this sense, EWCO has also recently partnered with the Makerere University and Josh’s Frogs, from whom we received a small grant, to facilitate a presentation about amphibian conservation awareness for students. This will help us to develop education and communication packages about amphibian conservation. These activities will be articulated around a student poster contest, where prizes will be awarded, to call the attention of students to amphibian conservation issues.

Citizen Science

Through our EWCO Citizen Science HerpMapper Uganda project, we seek to contribute to protected areas managament by gathering and updating information to their databases. The project uses an online platform, acessible through a phone application, to gather data on amphibians and reptiles. EWCO is using HerpMapper to generate records of observations of herps (frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, tortoises) by the general public, which can submit their observations or images through the application. The collected data is then made available to all HerpMapper partners and groups, who can use the recorded observations to raise awareness about conservation, research and education purposes. With HerpMapper Uganda, we aim to use technology to map amphibian and reptile distributions through time in Uganda, by collecting amphibian and reptile observations submitted through photos taken from anywhere in Uganda. Our observations are already making valuable contributions to the knowledge of amphibians and reptiles in our country.

Ex-situ conservation

Understanding the many facets of amphibian biology is paramount in establishing a successful Conservation Breeding Program. Dr. James Watuwa, EWCO founder and one of ASA’s Future Leaders of Amphibian Conservation, has recently received an Amphibian Ark Conservation (mentorship Grant) for the project “Capacity building of Uganda’s in-country ex situ husbandry and captive amphibian breeding expertise”. This project aims to establish the first ex situ supporting program for Uganda’s amphibian species. It will be housed at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC), where  Dr. James Watuwa is a zoo veterinarian, under the supervision of Dr. James Musinguzi (UWEC’s Executive Director), and the mentorship of Ian du Plessis (Johannesburg Zoo, South Africa).

By James Watuwa, Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization