Conservation Start-up Grants Program

The Amphibian Survival Alliance is committed to supporting organizations that focus on improving the well-being of amphibians. Our Conservation Start-up Grants offer the initial financial support needed to launch new, on-the-ground projects. These projects should aim to directly improve the survival rates of amphibians, particularly those that are globally Threatened or Data Deficient. We have a special focus on projects from developing countries that collaborate with local partners.

We prioritize projects that align with the following:

  • Species management
  • Awareness raising
  • Conservation planning
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Research & status monitoring
  • Evaluation, effectiveness measures and learning

Our grants offer up to $5,000 in initial funding for new amphibian conservation projects. The aim is to help projects attract larger and/or long-term funding. Project proposals should clearly explain how the project aligns with the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP) or CMP Conservation Actions Classification v 2.0.

Information about the next grant cycle will be made available once funding is confirmed.

Frequently Asked Questions

The ASA Conservation Start-up Grants aim to provide the initial funding needed to launch impactful amphibian conservation projects. These grants are designed to help projects attract larger and/or long-term funding. The focus is on:

  • Species management
  • Awareness raising
  • Conservation planning
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Research & status monitoring
  • Evaluation, effectiveness measures and learning

The grants are open to organizations, not individuals. Preference is given to projects that result from the collaboration of local or regional partners, where at least one is located in a developing country. The focus is on globally Threatened/Data Deficient amphibian species, although projects involving local populations of species in serious decline may also be considered.

Grants of up to $5,000 are available to support new amphibian conservation projects. This can include:

  • Species management
  • Awareness raising
  • Conservation planning
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Research & status monitoring
  • Evaluation, effectiveness measures and learning
The application period for these grants is announced as funding becomes available. Please stay tuned to our website and social media channels for the latest updates.

When the grant cycle opens, an official announcement will be issued where all instructions relevant to the application process will be found. The application package includes the application form, project proposal, project budget,  chronogram of activities and letters of support. Once we reach the deadline for applications, these go through a two stage review process where our expert reviewers will evaluate the relevance, impact and feasibility of each proposal. Once the review process is finished, annoucements are made and the process for allocation of funding begins.

Organizations that receive these grants benefit from the initial funding needed to launch their projects, which can often be a catalyst for attracting larger, long-term funding. The grants also provide organizations with the opportunity to establish or strengthen partnerships, both locally and globally.
Grants offer up to $5,000 in initial funding. The number of grants awarded each cycle depends on available funding. Organizations are encouraged to seek additional or matching funds to support their projects.
Please contact the ASA Programs Director, Candace Hansen, at [email protected] with any questions or inquiries about our Conservation Start-up Grant program.

Eligibility criteria:

This grant program is open to organizations only, not individuals. The organization should have a primary focus on amphibian conservation.

Projects must align with key priority topics, such as:

  • Species management
  • Awareness raising
  • Conservation planning
  • Policies and guidelines
  • Research & status monitoring
  • Evaluation, effectiveness measures and learning

Project proposals should clearly explain how the project aligns with the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP) or CMP Conservation Actions Classification v 2.0.

Preference is given to projects that result from the collaboration of local or regional partners, where at least one is located in a developing country.

The project should focus on globally Threatened/Data Deficient amphibian species. Projects involving local populations of species in serious decline may be considered on their own merits.
All proposals must demonstrate strategies in place for preventing the spread of disease, including any necessary disease screening protocols.
Evidence of appropriate partnerships with key stakeholders, including local community-based and government support, is required.
Projects that have acquired or are actively seeking match funding for linked activities will be prioritized. A clear budgetary breakdown must be provided in the application.

Any communication and awareness-raising activities must be justified in the context of how these actions may influence key audiences to mitigate threats and improve the outlook for target species. All projects must have a communication and outreach strategy in place to communicate their results.

If the project has had previous support from another organization, this should be disclosed in the application form.

Applicants will be required to provide detailed feedback and reports upon project completion.

These grants are awarded in honour of Dr. George B. Rabb (1930-2017), an ardent supporter of amphibians and all those who care for them. These grants support projects that reflect Dr. Rabb’s commitment to helping the world’s amphibians through evidence-based conservation interventions that address key threats and raise awareness.

From this year, we are also offering grants in honour of Professor Phil Bishop (1957–2021). Phil worked as ASA’s Chief Scientist from day one, and inspired us all in so many ways to care more about the world’s amphibians. We know his memory will continue to stimulate action for amphibians for generations to come.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Taita Taveta Wildlife Forum

The Sagalla caecilian is an endemic species found in Sagalla hill that is endangered and listed among the most evolutionary distinct amphibian by the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct, Globally Endangered) program. Sagalla hill is part of the Taita hills that are the northern portion of the eastern arc mountains known for high species endemism and a part of the eastern afromontane biodiversity hotspot. The population of the caecilian is low and patchy but relatively common in a small number of suitable habitat areas with >95% occurring within the agricultural landscape. The proportion of the area of potentially preferred habitat within the possible range of the Sagalla caecilian is fragmented and declining. There is therefore need to halt the degradation, expand the habitat and microhabitats as well as enhance connectivity through activities that also benefit the community. The threats to its existence include (i) habitat loss and destruction, (ii) poor legislation and awareness, and (iii) climate change.

The main objective of the project is: To mitigate the threats and reverse the declining trend in Sagalla Caecilian habitat size and quality.

The Objectives are:

  1. To promote farm management practices through farmers training that enhance the Sagalla caecilian habitat quality and size.
  2. To promote education and awareness on Sagalla caecilian and its conservation.

Anticipated results include:
1. Enhanced habitat quality and range of the Sagalla caecilian as a result of tree planting and appropriate farming leading to increase in connectivity and population.
2. The local community more awareness of the existence of the Sagalla caecilian, its conservation status and how to conserve it and benefits arising therefrom.
3. Enhanced climate resilience due to increased cover after the trees grow including improved water catchment.
4. Livelihood of local community improved through appropriate farming.

The activities include:

  1. Training on appropriate farming techniques that would contribute towards improving the quality of the habitat. The techniques include organic farming, conservation agriculture, planting of suitable crops such as bananas etc. The target is farmers in areas with a potential for suitable habitat for the Sagalla caecilian that can be improved through appropriate use.
  2. Tree planting on the farms and in school compounds.
  3. Education and awareness creation targeting the youth in school and those out of school.
  4. Engaging the youth out of school in citizen science aimed at getting them interested in conservation by taking advantage of possession of smart phones by taking geotagged photos wherever they come across Sagalla caecilians thus assisting in identifying the occurrence across the landscape.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Association Mitsinjo

The Harlequin Mantella (Mantella cowanii) is one of Madagascar’s most iconic amphibians. It is also highly threatened. Confined to the island’s central highlands, the Harlequin Mantella is known from only a handful of disjunct populations, none of which are regularly monitored. The greatest threat facing the species is habitat loss. Almost all native forest within its historic distribution is gone. Remaining populations persist in degraded gallery forest along high elevation streams in otherwise barren grasslands. With the detection of the amphibian chytrid fungus Bd at one site, the continued threat of climate change, and the species appeal to the international pet trade (for which the Harlequin Mantella was formerly heavily collected), conservation action is badly needed to prevent further declines and aid in recovery.

In December 2018, Chester Zoo and the Amphibian Specialist Group of Madagascar led a workshop with local authorities and site managers to revitalize the Mantella cowanii Conservation Action Plan. One of the main areas of need that emerged from the workshop was improved population monitoring. Without a better understanding of population trends and demography at remaining sites, it is challenging to prioritize actions and guide conservation decisions.

To this end, an ASA Start-up Grant will help support developing a population monitoring program for the Harlequin Mantella during 2020-2021. The project will rely on the unique individual ventral pattern of frogs to estimate abundance at the four isolated locations where the species continues to persist. The ASA-supported project will result not only in valuable baseline data contributing to the Mantella cowanii Conservation Action Plan, but also provide necessary resources and training to local site managers. The final result will be a standardized monitoring protocol for the Harlequin Mantella, helping target actions for species recovery and evaluate the progress of conservation efforts.

  1. Tree planting on the farms and in school compounds.
  2. Education and awareness creation targeting the youth in school and those out of school.
  3. Engaging the youth out of school in citizen science aimed at getting them interested in conservation by taking advantage of possession of smart phones by taking geotagged photos wherever they come across Sagalla caecilians thus assisting in identifying the occurrence across the landscape.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Grupo RANA

The giant Junin lake frog, Telmatobius macrostomus, and Junín’s wancha, Telmatobius brachydactylus are endemic to Junin and Pasco in Peru, they were abundant before the year 2000, but overhunting, alteration and degradation habitat, and presence of invasive species have caused an incredible decrease in population. These frogs are categorized as Endangered (EN) by the IUCN Red List and government legislation D.S Nº004-2014 (MINAGRI 2014).

In the past, Telmatobius macrostomus and T. brachydactylus meant an important economic, food and medicinal resource for local people. For this reason, in 2018, thanks to funding from the National Geographic Society, our team conducted surveys to assess the perspective of local people in relation to frogs. We obtained a high percentage of residents interested in conserving and recovering frogs.

In 2016, part of our team collaborated in the elaboration of the II Workshop to develop a conservation strategy for the giant frog and the Junin wancha (Watson et al. 2016), based on this work and the first workshop (Medrano et al. 2015), in 2017, GRUPO RANA developed a conservation program for both species, which has been continuously improved, thanks to the experiences and contributions of our allies.

Our mission is to increase and maintain stable populations of T. macrostomus and T. brachydactylus, to achieve this mission; we follow three general objectives: (1) conserve the frog’s habitat (2) efficiently manage that habitat (3) raise awareness of conservation issues with the general public. Our conservation program, created in 2017, has been continuously improving, thanks to the contributions of our partners and allies.

To achieve these objectives, we set out to complete the following activities: (1) Develop training workshops for one rural communities. Early result: Identify and compromise at least one leader. (2) Create a frog management plan. Anticipated outcome: A publication and workshop presenting the management plan of Telmatobius macrostomus for conservation purposes and validated by SERNANP (National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the State), (3) Execute an annual monitoring of frogs “citizen science”. Early result: At least 5 people from one farming community conduct citizen monitoring of frogs validated by specialists. (4) Promote the creation of “Frog Guardians or Frog leaders”. Anticipated result: Implement one ecotourism or volunteering project that uses frogs with inclusion of biosecurity plan (5) Generate undisclosed audiovisual material on citizen science work. Early result: Reach a minimum of 1000 local people and 10,000 people from the national and international level.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Endangered Wildlife Trust

This project will be led by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Amphibian Programme, based in South Africa, where we have been implementing amphibian conservation projects since 2012.

There are currently around 135 described frog species in South Africa, 64% of which are unique to the country. Most of the threatened and endemic species occur in the Western Cape Province. This project will focus on formalizing and implementing conservation plans for three threatened and iconic frog species that are endemic to the region. In 2018 we conducted a prioritization exercise to identify endemic and threatened amphibians suitable for habitat protection efforts. To do this, we considered their IUCN threat category, their endemicity, whether existing conservation work is underway, and what proportion of their habitat is currently protected. Based on these factors, we identified three species in the Western Cape for which targeted habitat protection interventions would have particularly significant conservation benefits. These are the Critically Endangered Rough Moss Frog (Arthroleptella rugosa), Micro Frog (Microbatrachella capensis), and the newly described Moonlight Mountain Toadlet (Capensibufo selenophos). All are situated within the center of endemism of the Cape Floristic Region, home to some of South Africa’s most unique, and threatened frog species. The Rough Moss Frog has an extremely small range of 0.9 km2, making it very vulnerable to threats including alien vegetation and fire. The distribution of the Micro Frog – occurring at just four localities across 7 km2 – is highly fragmented and impacted by urbanization, agricultural expansion, the spread of alien vegetation, and drainage of breeding habitats. The distribution of the Moonlight Mountain Toadlet is not well understood, although the species is definitely threatened by the proliferation of alien invasive plants. Urgent, targeted habitat protection and management at key sites will benefit all three species. South Africa allows for the formal, long-term protection of habitat through mechanisms including biodiversity stewardship and servitudes, which we plan to implement for this project.

Through this project we will carry out field surveys for these range-limited species, assess threats and determine the feasibility of habitat protection and management efforts for each. The overall goal of our project is therefore to assess the scope of securing formal protection for three of the most range-restricted and threatened amphibian species in the Western Cape, South Africa.

The project objectives are that:

  1. The distribution of each target species is better understood and quantified.
  2. Key threats are identified and quantified to inform conservation actions.
  3. Formal habitat protection mechanisms are identified, and landowner engagements initiated, to secure critical habitat for these species.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Bristol Zoological Society

Lemur frogs, Agalychnis lemur, are Critically Endangered and the population in Costa Rica represents a unique genetic entity (Gray, 2011). In 2018 the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS) secured a Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Grant to survey the distribution of lemur frogs in Costa Rica. The only naturally occurring population was found in Límon province.  In 2019 we approached and secured a partnership with a local conservation charity, the Veragua Rainforest Foundation, at the location of natural occurrence. The IUCN Red List identified threats for A. lemur are chytrid fungus and various forms of habitat destruction. Recent work suggests chytrid is prevalent but with low infection intensities in lowland amphibian communities in Costa Rica (Zumbado-Ulate et al. 2019) therefore likely to be of lower importance here. Habitat loss to anthropogenic encroachment in the premontane regions is likely to have disproportionately affected availability of breeding locations for lemur frogs. Historically there has been complete forest clearance for plantations and cattle ranching, but a contemporary problem is increasing illegal land occupation encroaching on larger forest blocks and protected areas. The current natural range for A. lemur includes recovering secondary forest, breeding is known from a number of identified permanent forest pools at Veragua Rainforest.

Until now only preliminary survey and contact activities have been undertaken for lemur frogs in Costa Rica. We have characterised the call and developed a method of passive acoustic survey as a means of monitoring lemur frogs (Emmett et al., In press). Conservation action is required to safeguard the extant relict population, as well as greater survey effort to understand the extent of occupied range. Informal applications of simple artificial ponds and ‘breeding buckets’ have been shown to be effective for A. lemur at both Veragua Rainforest and a translocated group at the Costa Rica Amphibian Conservation Research Center. A formal application of the creation of breeding habitat in accessible areas can be achieved by forming transects away from the area of known occupation and monitoring colonisation and use. In this way the success of the provision of additional breeding sites will be closely monitored. This will be done with the permission and involvement of the community of the adjacent indigenous reserve. No surveys of this reserve have been performed and this would greatly expand the knowledge of the known range of A. lemur. One additional National Park site, Hitoy Cerere, will also be surveyed as it lies between the population in Costa Rica and the extant occupied range in Panama.

The ASA start-up funding will be instrumental in constructing new breeding habitat and both monitoring the breeding pools as well as expanding the lemur frog surveys into the indigenous reserve. The ASA funding will also contribute substantially to the survey of the additional location at Hitoy Cerere. The Veragua Rainforest Foundation maintains an established working relationship with the local indigenous community.


Where fieldwork is carried out, use of biosecurity protocols following a check/clean/dry protocol will be employed. Boots and clothing will be sanitised between sites. Hands-off working will be observed with no handling of amphibians or entering into water bodies unless unavoidable.

Breeding habitat creation

This will comprise the installation of 20 small permanent water bodies in the known area of lemur frog occurrence. Ten of each of artificial lined pools (~dimensions; 1 x 1m and 0.5m depth) and large plastic half-drums (~dimensions; 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5m) will be used. Artificial breeding sites will be placed at fixed distances from current breeding locations in five transects of four with 50m intervals between successive pools (therefore the furthest will be 200m from an existing breeding location). Pools will be monitored regularly for presence of spawn, tadpoles, and adult frogs; the undersides of all leaves within two metres above or one metre adjacent to the water will be searched for spawn, tadpoles photographed if possible, and a five minute torchlight sweep made for adults around the pool. All regular monitoring will be done at night. Periodic checks may be carried out during the day to confirm spawn and tadpole counts. Acoustic recorders will be moved between pools at least during the one-year intensive monitoring, in order to obtain relative call counts to compare with colonisation data. Colonisation and abundance data will be used to understand whether the different pool types are equally successful, and the information used to gauge the speed and consistency of colonisation. Additional data on species ecology will also be collected such as the identification of individuals through pictures of nocturnal colouration allowing dispersal and longevity to be assessed.

Information regarding the methodology as well as the data will be made available on the BZS web page for the lemur leaf frog project, as well as being published as a peer-reviewed scientific article.

Indigenous reserve surveys

A local team of guides from the local community will be trained in identification methods of the lemur leaf frog (and other Threatened amphibians native to the reserve). All pools located will be recorded with a GPS and a photograph taken to give a rough approximation of size and state. Standardised searches for five minutes separately for each of; spawn, tadpoles, and adults will be undertaken and photographs taken as appropriate. Photographs and GPS information will be passed onto Veragua Foundation staff each month.

Wider survey of Hitoy Cerere National Park

Only a single region less than ten square kilometres is known to be occupied by lemur frogs in Costa Rica, it is important to identify any other isolated populations. The survey team will identify suitable areas during the day, surveying for lemur frog spawn and tadpoles where pools are found. Suitable habitat is determined to be closed canopy forest containing permanent or semi-permanent bodies of standing water of any size. Nocturnal surveys are torchlight transects across the habitat adjacent to the water body. Transects are walked slowly with at least one stop close to the water during which lights are extinguished in order to listen for lemur frog calls for three to four minutes without disturbance. If a lemur frog call is detected, up to ten minutes of searching is undertaken up to twice per site. In this way multiple sites can be visited in an evening without compromising survey effectiveness.

In locations where suitable breeding areas are found but accessibility is limited/prohibited or with unsuitable terrain for night surveys, passive audio recorders will be left to record for one or more nights. The Veragua Rainforest Foundation has become a partner organisation with Bristol Zoological Society for conservation work involving the lemur leaf frog. The Veragua Foundation is currently writing their conservation and research strategy, including the suggestions and project intentions outlined here for breeding habitat creation. In 2019 we mounted an expedition with a mixed team of the indigenous community, Veragua Foundation staff, and BZS staff and students. During this expedition we discussed further activities, the stipulation from the community being that where community lands are concerned there must be a community member present. The Veragua Foundation has a formal agreement with the community for guiding and collecting audio recorder data, and are able to extend this to include our breeding habitat creation and monitoring. Veragua has previously hosted community events and we intend to run a children’s event to dig a pond in one of the more accessible sites to raise awareness of amphibians, and particularly to highlight biosecurity and human responsibility in relation to amphibian conservation.

Establishing a conservation action plan for the lemur leaf frog is one of the BZS five year objectives; only through regular monitoring of established sites can a baseline of population size be established allowing an informed and effective action plan to be developed.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Instituto Curicaca

The Admirable Red-Belly Toad (ARBT, Melanophryniscus admirabilis) is a micro-endemic and Critically Endangered amphibian species from the southernmost region of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. The species is highly dependent on preserved forests and high-quality water for its existence. The only-known population of the ARBT occurs only along 700 m of the Forqueta River margins. Its area of occurrence is surrounded by small farms where low-income families cultivate tobacco, soy and wheat with heavy use of pesticides.

Currently, the single ARBT population is exposed to strong anthropogenic pressures such as habitat loss due deforestation for agriculture, water contamination by agrochemicals, and pollution. Other potential threats to the species are related to unordered tourism activities in the site and the risk of illegal international commerce. Until recently, the species was also severed threatened by the possible construction of a small hydroelectric power plant in the region (SPP), but thanks to a multi-institutional conservation action, the SPP license was denied.

Over the past years, the Instituto Curicaca and its partners (such as the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) have been leading multi-institutional conservation actions involving the ARBT and its habitat, such as: 1) studies about the ecology of the species and the main threats to its survival; 2) a rapid ecological assessment to guide the future creation of a protected area in the region; and 3) the creation and execution of several conservation actions included in the national program Conservation Action Plan for the Southern Brazilian Herpetofauna. One of the activities included in this plan involves providing support for sustainable economic activities that could reduce the anthropogenic pressure and threats to the ARBT. Over the past few years, the Amphibian Survival Alliance has also been a partner of the Instituto Curicaca in some of these conservation activities.

Although we have already achieved a lot, the challenges to ensure the maintenance of the single ARBT population are complex, and it’s necessary to increase the involvement of the local community to minimize conflicts that might potentially threaten the species. These activities should not only benefit the species but  be also associated with the increase of the community’s quality of life.

Our main goal within this project is to support the local community in the implementation of agro-ecological activities that, on the one hand provide them whit a source of income, and on the other hand do not harm the ARBT. Considering the cultural importance of the Yerba Mate in the region, we aim to organize its agro-ecological production by local families, gradually stimulating them to replace their tobacco and wheat-soy plantations by native Yerba Mate trees, in a way to reduce the main threats to the ARBT. The Mate Tea is a regional and popular drink that is widely consumed in South America and, besides having great cultural and economic importance in the South of Brazil, also has a strong potential of expansion in international markets. With this in mind, we aim to help the community to produce and sell their own Yerba Mate brand called ‘Admirable-Toad Ecological Yerba Mate’.

With this project, we aim to achieve the following results: 1) to reduce deforestation in the region where the ARBT lives; 2) to reduce the risks of contamination by pesticides in the site where the ARBT lives and reproduces; 3) to increase the involvement of the local community with conservation activities by creating a group of local friends and protectors of the ARBT.

To achieve these goals, we aim to provide technical and financial support for local community farmers to help them shift part of their agro-chemical-intensive crop production to the production of Yerba Mate in agroforestry systems. If we succeed in empowering the people and in raising awareness of the importance of environmental conservation among them, we will also succeed in achieving long-term and sustainable results that will save the Admirable Red-Belly Toad, one of the most beautiful and threatened amphibians of the world.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: Global Wildlife Conservation

Harlequin toads (Atelopus) are among the most threatened amphibian group in the world with more than 85% of the species classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered, and two species have been confirmed to be Extinct. Most Critically Endangered species have suffered severe population declines and possible extinctions throughout their range despite inhabiting pristine forests. This has been linked primarily to the deadly chytrid fungus (Bd) and further exacerbated by habitat loss and degradation, climate change, and the inherent risks of having very small populations and restricted ranges.

Despite the dire threats they face, most Atelopus populations have been insufficiently monitored and are very poorly studied. Moreover, there is a lack of collaboration and information exchange among conservationists about research, management actions, and policies, as well as lack of education, community engagement, and outreach programs. The Atelopus genus is in critical condition and needs urgent and targeted conservation actions.

To successfully confront the Atelopus extinction crisis, the Atelopus Survival Initiative, a collaborative regional effort, is creating a coordinated response to achieve substantial, long-term, range-wide conservation impact to save the genus. As a first step, Global Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Society Colombia, and the Colombian Herpetological Society (ACH) have joined forces to systematically and coordinately develop a holistic and cost-effective strategy to implement priority actions to catalyze a nation-wide, multi-disciplinary, and inter-institutional approach to save Atelopus from extinction in Colombia.

We will establish a coherent, organized, and coordinated network of Atelopus conservationists and herpetologists in Colombia to implement site-based projects to ensure protection through ecological monitoring, education, and initiatives that build capacity, and enable nation-wide adaptive management. To achieve this, and successfully confront the Atelopus extinction crisis, we will focus on five interrelated components: 1) Network development and improved stakeholder coordination, 2) Data collection on the population status of known remnant Atelopus populations, 3) Exploration for lost Atelopus populations, 4) Prioritization of threats and development of mitigation strategies, and 5) Campaign to raise status of Atelopus and encourage the political support. Our long term goal is to develop a national collaborative strategy, with specific and targeted interventions, to bring Atelopus back from the brink of extinction in Colombia

At the end of the project we expect to create a cohesive network of Atelopus conservationists in Colombia and facilitate collaborative efforts to understand and mitigate the threats the genus is facing. Specifically, with the funds provided by ASA, we expect to develop an experimental approach to evaluate the role of skin microbiota as a potential defense against Bd, as well as have a better understanding of the relationship between Bd prevalence and population dynamics.We intend to also shine the global spotlight on Atelopus and build the capacity of the next generation of amphibian conservationists in the Colombia.

ASA Conservation Grant awarded to: COANA

Ceratophrys ornata is an emblematic amphibian from South American temperate grasslands. Many populations in Argentina have declined and it has not been formally recorded in Brazil and Uruguay since 1982. Although its global conservation status is Near Threatened, this assessment is currently outdated (2004) and incomplete. More recent and comprehensive national and regional assessments consider the species as Vulnerable in Argentina and Uruguay, and Critically Endangered in Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil. These assessments also indicate that the species has experienced population decline and local extinctions, which could considerably reduce its known distributional range. The major threats to the species seem to be the habitat loss and contamination due to agricultural practices and urban developments. Ceratophrys ornata is often persecuted because of unfounded beliefs that it is a venomous species. Nonetheless, the lack of records has limited the studies on natural history and population traits, making difficult to analyze the relative contribution of the threats to the population decline.

In 2016, my team and I established the project “Giant of the Pampas” to draw attention of this species and develop conservation strategies. To gather current occurrence data of C. ornata, we set up a citizen science program as a complement to fieldwork, intended to better define the area where the species still occurs. Through this program we increased by more than ten times the number of records obtained over ten years of fieldwork and we defined two priority conservation areas. The populations occurring in those areas exhibit an opportunity to deepen the knowledge of C. ornata natural history and to test the effectiveness of in situ conservation actions.

The goal of our proposal is to build a grassroots movement in support of a conservation strategy aimed to protect C. ornata in Argentina. The comprehensive strategy will be based on extensive fieldwork, citizen science and public engagement campaigns. To achieve our goal, we propose to study unknown aspects of natural history (demographic attributes and reproductive phenology) and analyze the infection patterns of Bd. Additionally, we will explore the effects of habitat modification on C. ornataoccurrence and abundance at local level. Finally, we will implement citizen science and public engagement campaigns to promote local knowledge and raise awareness to reduce the elimination and persecution of C. ornata.

This proposal is inserted in the framework of an international initiative conducted by scientists and conservationists from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. The initiative aims to create a global action plan for C. ornata and promote effective conservation and management actions. Also, given the intrinsic relationship between native grasslands and C. ornata, this study has implications in the conservation of the South American temperate grasslands.