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.