Can you tell us a little bit about you, James?

My name is James Watuwa. I am a wildlife veterinarian and conservationist from Uganda. I am also the Co-Founder and CEO at Elgon wildlife conservation organization for four years since its founding in 2018. I am in charge of overseeing strategic planning, administration, program and fundraising activities. We are a team of 6 staff.

What projects have you been involved in to promote amphibian conservation?

In Uganda, only basic amphibian conservation efforts have been conducted so far. In this context, I founded Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO), Uganda’s first nonprofit organization with a program dedicated exclusively to amphibian conservation. My conservation efforts have focused on contributing to the ongoing Herpeto-faunal Conservation Assessment of Uganda, a loose collection of efforts to assess the conservation status of the country’s amphibians , improve natural history information for data-deficient and endangered species.


EWCO recognizes the importance of public education 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, I am currently working to develop the first Amphibian Communication and Education Strategy for Uganda.

Citizen Science for Amphibian conservation

Through HerpMapper Uganda project, we are contributing to protected areas management by gathering and updating information to their databases. The project uses an online platform, accessible through a phone application, to gather data on amphibians and reptiles. Through this approach, I have been able to establish an amphibian conservation database using HerpMapper to generate records of observations of herps 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.

Ex-situ conservation

Understanding the many facets of amphibian biology is paramount in establishing a successful Conservation Breeding Program. In 2020 UWEC ZOO where I work as a zoo veterinarian and coordinator of the amphibian captive breeding program , 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. The project will be housed at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre, with mentorship received from Ian du Plessis from the Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa.

What is your favourite amphibian species and why?

My favourite amphibian species is Leptopelis karissimbensis of family Arthroleptidae, listed as Vulnerable (IUCN, 2020). It is considered to be the most threatened amphibian species In Uganda (National Red List, 2016). Leptopelis karissimbensis frog is a powerful symbol of the need to protect amphibian diversity, and publicising the search for this species will raise awareness of a great many other indigenous species.

Has been recognized as a Future Leader of Amphibian Conservation by ASA made a difference in your career so far?

Being recognized as a Future Leader of Amphibian Conservation has improved my confidence among my peers. It has offered me platform to network , learn and share knowledge as well as meet multidisciplinary professional teams and strategic partnerships, consequently creating local and global networks for collaborations in addressing amphibian conservation challenges.