In 2021, we received approximately 50 applications from the ASA Start-up Conservation Grants call, of which we will be able to fund six. Below you can learn more about the project Reinforcing capacity for urgent mountain frog conservation in the Highlands of Cameroon to be executed by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (Thomas Doherty-Bone[email protected]).

In 2011, endemic frog species that were common to Cameroon’s mountains suddenly disappeared. This included numerous Puddle Frogs (Phrynobatrachus spp.), historically so numerous that one had to avoid treading on them. Numerous species of Small-tongued Toad (Werneria spp.) and Long-fingered Frog (Cardioglossa spp.) had also disappeared. Monitoring the same sites and searching complementary sites through to 2018 showed these disappearances were not temporary.

The RZSS African Amphibian & Reptile Program had been working to understand and protect the unique amphibians of Cameroon’s mountain ranges for over a decade, including training of Cameroonian amphibian conservation biologists. The collaborative research findings are still uncertain, though a combination of habitat loss, chytridiomycosis and climate change are major factors to address. Research was turning into action, to improve habitat protection, and to prepare emergency captive-breeding and rearingfacilities.

Tragically, a civil war started across the majority of Cameroon’s mountain ranges, which stunted work in 2018, even directly impacting several team members. This still left some mountains in areas unaffected by hostilities, but while we regrouped in 2019 ready for a 2020 campaign, the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. The hiatus of dedicated effort to continue the conservation program for endemic mountain amphibian species in Cameroon has caused a disruption for training of Cameroonian amphibian conservationists. While there is the case to leave them to continue on their own to work things out for themselves, the urgency of this crisis means the collaborative efforts needed to continue.

The 2021 ASA Start-up Grant has enabled resumption of these efforts in Cameroon to consolidate the drive to stop and reverse these mountain amphibian population crashes. This enabled reunification of the field teams, visiting of new sites that could potentially hold remnant amphibian populations, engagement with communities for these sites, and plan for how and where to set up an amphibian husbandry centre. These included liaising with Arnaud Tchassem at Mount Bamboutos, where he has been continuing his doctoral research to protect what is left of the montane forest, that still holds populations of critically endangered Bamboutos Egg Frog (Leptodactylodon axillaris) and endangered Perret’s Egg Frog (L. perreti), as well as the “Oku” Long-fingered Frog (Cardioglossa oreas) still holding on.

Among others, the project also liaised with doctoral researcher at University of Yaoundé I, Marina Kameni, on Mount Manengouba. Training was provided on measurement of habitat characteristics, to enable data collection on forest and water quality for both restoration and captive breeding targets. This included use of GIS to map extent of forest and other habitats. Experience was shared on how to engage with local stakeholders for more sustainable programs. Mountains previously unsurveyed were visited, with introductions to local stakeholders. Discussions are underway with local authorities on the suitability for constructing breeding facilities, with resources being sourced. A significant part of the work is assessing the security situation, in collaboration with local communities and authorities in various field sites. Work is ongoing, but this grant has enabled a rejuvenation of work that was interrupted by the pandemic.

Photos by Thomas Doherty-Bone.