Conservation


Nos complace anunciar que, a partir de la próxima edición del boletín AArk, estaremos ofreciendo nuestro boletín de noticias tanto en inglés como en español.

Si desea suscribirse a la versión en español del boletín, por favor haga clic en el botón de abajo e inscríbase al boletín de español.

Estamos seguros de que nuestros lectores españoles apreciarán esta nueva iniciativa. Nos gustaría transmitir un agradecimiento enorme para Silvia Flores, quien ha ofrecido generosamente a traducir los boletínes para nosotros cada trimestre.

Houston Zoo received a grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife to begin a new conservation education program called Toad Trackers, and they have recently completed their first two classes.

In the Toad Tracker program, teenagers are monitoring wild Gulf Coast Toads (Bufo nebulifer) within the zoo grounds. It is a series of classes in the classroom and in the field, and they also learn about global amphibian declines, in addition to the field training which focuses on collecting morphological, environmental and geographic data (GPS).

The students are thorougyl enjoying themselves so far, and hopefully, are taking away important messages about looking after the environment and amphibians in general. The program also includes a post analysis session after the field training, which includes organizing and answering the data they collected and they must answer several conservation discussion questions. They have to do this to become a certified expert “Toad Tracker”.

More information about this program can be found on the Zoo’s web site, http://www.houstonzoo.org/toad-trackers/

This is another example of a great program developed by zoos to help conserve the world’s amphibians – what programs are your zoos involved with?

Unfortunately, the New Zealand Government wants to make a quick buck by mining some of the beautiful New Zealand forests which are home to Archey’s frogs (Leiopelma archeyi) and Hochstetter’s frogs (Leiopelma hochstetteri). If this goes ahead then we will be able to document the extinction of two more frog species.

Archey's Frog. Iamge: Patrick Crawley.

In the 1990s areas of New Zealand that were considered to be of “high conservation value” (including many National Parks) were placed on Schedule 4 which recognised their conservation significance and proclaimed them as a “No go” area for all other activities. The New Zealand Government is now asking for public submissions about their proposal to remove some of this high conservation value land from Schedule 4 to open it up for mining (coal, gold iron ore and rare minerals). The areas to be mined include several long-term frog monitoring sites where the frog populations have been continually monitored for over 40 years – this represents the best data on frog populations anywhere in the world.

In addition the proposed mining area includes the ‘type’ locality of Archey’s frog (Tokatea on the Coromandel Peninsula) and Hochstetter’s frogs (Coromandel Peninsula). Archey’s frogs only occur in two areas of New Zealand and the Coromandel is considered the ‘stronghold’ population.

“Save our frogs – stop the mining” really is the biggest issue in New Zealand conservation – of course saving the long-tailed bat, woodroses and a North Island brown kiwi along the way is important too!

These endangered frogs (Archey’s are Critically Endangered losing 88% of their population since 1996) are just hanging in there and without our help they will disappear. If we destroy their habitat then we will quickly lose a part of one of the most important pieces of New Zealand history as well as a large piece of the amphibian evolutionary tree. We have a moral obligation to protect these original inhabitants of New Zealand – the little people of the forest.

For more information on how the frogs will be affected (including maps of distribution and proposed areas to be mined) click here…… http://www.nzfrogs.org/

To see some ppt about the mining issue during a recent Panel Discussion (including frogs) click here……. http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/nrl/mining/index.html

For more information about the mining in Coromandel click here……. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/saving-our-environment/threats-and-impacts-/mining-/mining-coromandel

Please make a submission to the New Zealand Government by clicking here ….. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/mining

The beautiful Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki) is considered Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only three animals of this species have been seen in the wild since late 2007 and it is now quite possibly Extinct in the Wild.

Fortunately for the species though, approximately 1,500 animals still exist aboard the AArk, thanks to the work of Project Golden Frog (www.ProjectGoldenFrog.org) and the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) (www.houstonzoo.org/amphibians/) in central Panama.

The Amphibian Ark is currently trying to help create a dedicated facility in Panama, at the EVACC, to house an expanding population of golden frogs that will hopefully someday be used for reintroduction back into the wild. Work on building this his facility is almost complete, but requires an additional $15,000 to complete.

Please give the gift of gold – make a donation (maybe in someone else’s honor) and help us to save one of the most spectacular amphibian species, the Panamanian Golden Frog, from extinction. Please click here to make your donation.

In February I facilitated an amphibian Conservation Needs Assessment workshop for Guatemalan species, at the Museum of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City. Participants at the workshop were Carlos Vasquez, Jonathan Campbell (Guatemalan Regional Chair of the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group), Ted Papenfuss , Manuel Acevedo, Roderico Anzueto , Liza García, Jacobo Conde, Alejandra Zamora and Gustavo Ruano. 

During the workshop, 142 Guatemalan species were evaluated by the participants to assess actions that are required to ensure their survival, with species falling into one or more of six different conservation roles:

  • 34 species requiring rescue – Species that are in imminent danger of extinction (locally or globally) and requires ex situ management, as part of an integrated program, to ensure their survival.
  • 42 species requiring in situ conservation – Species for which mitigation of threats in the wild may still bring about their successful conservation.
  • 58 species requiring in situ research – Species that for one or more reasons require further in situ research to be carried out as part of the conservation action for the species. One or more critical pieces of information is not known at this time.
  • 12 species requiring ex situ research – Species undergoing specific applied research that directly contributes to the conservation of the species, or a related species, in the wild (this would include clearly defined ‘model’ or ‘surrogate’ species).
  • 12 species suited to conservation education – Species that are specifically selected for management – primarily in zoos and aquariums – to inspire and increase knowledge in visitors, in order to promote positive behavioural change. For example, when a species is used to raise financial or other support for field conservation projects (this would include clearly defined ‘flagship’ or ‘ambassador’ species).
  • 37 species which do not currently require conservation action

Workshop participants assessing the conservation needs of Guatemalan amphibians.

At the end of the workshop, participants discussed the results, and the next steps that are required. Further in situ research work is currently underway, with a number of universities currently involved in field research. Interest is high in holding an amphibian husbandry workshop in Guatemala over the coming months to increase the in-country capacity to establish successful ex situ conservation programs.

A proposal is currently being drafted to seek support for a small amphibian conservation breeding and display facility, with display facilities for one or two common frog and salamander species, and an off-display area where husbandry skills can be increased, and several species can be established for captive breeding.

Funds for the workshop were generously provided by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Fund, and we are grateful for their support for this workshop.

The detailed results from the workshop can be found on the Amphibian Ark’s data portal.

A male Gastrotheca cornuta (Marsupial Frog) at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

On the way home from an Amphibian Ark Conservation Needs Assessment workshop in Guatemala, I stopped by Atlanta for a few days, primarily to work with Atlanta-based internet marketing agency, Moxie Interactive (Moxie is helping to redevelop AArk’s web site, but more about that in a future post), but I also took advantage of being in Atlanta to visit the botanical garden.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden (ABG) has been involved in a number of breeding programs for endangered Central American frog species since the late 1990s. They have been successful breeding speices such as Gastrotheca, Anotheca etc. and currently maintain over a hundred animals in various enclosures, both on display in the Fuqua Conservatory, and in off-display breding facilities.

The ABG also makes use of a specially designed “pod” for much of it’s breeding efforts. The pod has been created from an un-used shipping container, and was modelled closely on the original amphibian pod designed by Gerry Marantelli from the Amphibian Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. You can read more about amphibian containers on the AArk web site.

The inside of the frog pod at the Atlanta Botanic Gardens

I’d like to thank ABG Amphibian Specialist, Robert, for taking the time to show me around the amphiban facilities, and I would strongly encourage people to pay a visit to the ABG to learn more about their very successful amphibian conservation program.

Six years ago, promises were made by governments from around the world involving the mass extinctions facing so many animal classes, chief among them the amphibian class. The governments vowed to halt the decline in biodiversity by 2o1o. Well, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) just issued a report that says, in essence, “let’s not kid ourselves, when next year comes around, it’s going to be bleak.”

IUCN, which puts out the Red List of most endangered species, has produced a 150-page report that details the loss of biodiversity earth has experienced over the last 5 years. “Biodiversity continues to decline and next year no one will dispute that,” said the report’s senior editor. “It’s happening everywhere.”

Here’s a link to story I just read about this.  (Click HERE.)

An excerpt from the IUCN Web site:

The report shows nearly one third of amphibians, more than one in eight birds and nearly a quarter of mammals are threatened with extinction. For some plant groups, such as conifers and cycads, the situation is even more serious, with 28 percent and 52 percent threatened respectively. For all these groups, habitat destruction, through agriculture, logging and development, is the main threat and occurs worldwide.

In the case of amphibians, the fungal disease chytridiomycosis is seriously affecting an increasing number of species, complicating conservation efforts. For birds, the highest number of threatened species is found in Brazil and Indonesia, but the highest proportion of threatened or extinct birds is found on oceanic islands. Invasive species and hunting are the main threats. For mammals, unsustainable hunting is the greatest threat after habitat loss. This is having a major impact in Asia, where deforestation is also occurring at a very rapid rate.

Noticed this on Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Web site: Ron Gagliardo, its top amphibian expert, just got a new species named in his honor. Very cool. Here’s what the Web site says:

New frog species named Pristimantis gagliardoi
Amphibian Conservation Coordinator Ron Gagliardo has been honored because a newly discovered frog species has been named for him. During  herpetological studies of a previously unsurveyed region in the high Andies of southern Ecuador near Cuenca, this distinctive new species of rain frog was discovered by a field team including Joe Mendelson (Zoo Atlanta), Martin Bustamante (Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Ecuador), Michell Cummer (Utah State).

We salute you, Framingham, Massachusetts, for your “Big Night” of observing frog and salamander migration. Conservation agent Michelle is a natural on YouTube, don’t you think? Story here.

Fascinating story on Mongabay.com about the frogs of Madagascar, including an interview with Dr. Franco Andreone, described by Mongabay as the “Renaissance-man of herpetofauna.” He is the Madagascar chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group, a major backer of Amphibian ArkDr. Andreone has written before that “Madagascar holds the potential to become a worldwide model region for a concerted and collaborative effort of researchers, institutions and NGOs to set up a system of efficient protection, study and long-term monitoring of amphibians.” Excerpts from the Mongabay story:

Mongabay: Amphibians have begun to receive increased attention from conservation organizations due to their great vulnerability–programs like EDGE and the Amphibian Ark are working specifically on amphibians. Do you think enough is being done to stave off massive amphibian extinction?

Franco Andreone: Difficult to say. In general, I believe that we will observe repeated and sometimes small local extinctions. Only the species with very small distribution areas will suffer heavily from habitat alterations and pathologies. I am thinking, for example, of high altitude endemics and species that live next to human pollutions. In other cases it will be difficult to understand the loss in terms of amphibian biodiversity. In Madagascar it’s necessary to increase collecting data in the wild, since for many species we do not even have information about the sexual dimorphism, simply because the species is known from a limited number of individuals held in natural history museums. Anyhow, amphibians will decrease in numbers all around the world, excepting, as usual, for the introduced and exotic species. I am thinking, for example, of the big cane toad (Bufo marinus), introduced in Australia; the huge bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus, that is also a vector of the amphibian chytrid fungus; and of the African clawed frogs Xenopus laevis. These species, where introduced, have proven to be real pests. But the small and tiny frogs of the Malagasy rainforests are really next to catastrophic declines if — for example — the amphibian chytrid fungus (currently said to be absent in Madagascar) is accidentally introduced.
 

Mongabay: What can the public do to help conserve biodiversity, especially herpetofauna?

Franco Andreone: First of all it is important to increase public awareness. Education plays an important role for the public to learn that frogs, toads and salamanders are not only beautiful and interesting animals, but are part of the great diversity of life. Their protection and conservation is, in the end, the protection of our common world. Then it is important to do our best to save not only the big forests of the tropics where huge amphibian diversity is present, but also the small natural habitats that we still have in our countryside. The conservation of a small pool and the natural environments surrounding it is often a way to save important amphibian populations. Better information and a careful management of the natural habitats are the best way to conserve biodiversity all around the world. Donations to the Amphibian Specialist Group (JEFF’S NOTE: ASG is one of Amphibian Ark’s main backers.) and associate programs will help to conduct field surveys on the threatened batrachofauna, and to purchase the last fragments of focal areas for amphibians.

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