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.


The Kihansi spray toad used to live in the spray region of the Kihansi waterfall, in Tanzania, and relied heavily on the spray from the waterfall to maintain a constant temperature and humidity in its environment. But due to the construction of a dam which funded by the World Bank, the waterfall has been disrupted, and the Kihansi spray toad has recently been declared Extinct in the Wild.

A number of small populations of this species exist in US zoos, and in spit of several setbacks with the initial population of 500 animals that were collected, the current population now sits at around 470 animals.

How many more species will become extinct in the wild, relying entirely on ex situ “ark” populations for their survival, before we start to take better care of our planet and ALL of its inhabitants?

More information on the Kihansi spray toad can be found here.

Bakersfield, Californian columnist Valerie Schultz  has written a column about the amphibian crisis and Amphibian Ark that also asks: why do so many of us smile at the word “frog” but change expressions at the word “toad”?

“To my amazement, it turns out that all toads actually are frogs. The toads just have stubbier bodies, shorter hind legs, and warty, dry skin. Toads are like the ugly sisters of the amphibian family. They suffer in comparison to their frog siblings, who steal the family show with their lovely webbed feet, their smooth skin, their prominent eyes, and their leaping legs. Among humans, toads also have a less pleasant reputation than frogs. The connotation of the word ‘toad’ is something sluggish and unattractive.”

“In the human world, a person who is a ‘toady’ grovels to please others. If someone ever describes you as a toad, you might want to think about an extreme makeover.”

Thank goodness this blog is more enlightened and is giving the toad its due — but wait a minute. I just glanced at previous posts on this blog, and found only 14 that mention toads vs. about 100 that  mention frogs. That’s just not right!

The toads definitely need an image consultant. We will try to be more balanced moving forward. Sorry about that, all you toads.

Story out of California regarding captive breeding reports that following the California wildfires, the Arroyo toad is missing from 75 percent of the habitat where it’s normally found. This is the type of situation that the network of zoos, aquariums, and conservation groups with Amphibian Ark studies. A while back, a post here mentioned that the Arroyo toad is typically resilient to wildfires. Yet, the Arroyo toad — Bufo californicus — is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

We’re only weeks away from 2008 The Year of the Frog! Here’s a video, created by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Auburn Career Center, that features “kids telling kids” about the amphibian crisis — what’s happening, and why, and most important, what kids can do about it. Kudos to the folks in Cleveland for making this video.

Amphibian Ark has started providing me with lists of the species most in need of being placed in protective custody — meaning, they can’t be saved in the wild and need to be placed with zoos and other host locations before they disappear. Here’s the first installment — the European “highest priority” list.

As funds become available, the species listed below will be among the first to hop onto the Ark. Click on the species name and you’ll go to a page that tells more. 


Neurergus kaiseri (Luristan newt) — Iran
Rana cf. holzi (Taurus frog) — Turkey
Alytes muletensis (Mallorcan midwife toad)– Spain
Neurergus microspilotus (salamander) — Iran/Iraq/Turkey border
Batrachuperus gorganensis (Gorgan salamander) — Iran
Liciasalamandra billae (salamander) — Turkey
Pelobates varaldii (Varaldi’s spadefoot toad)  – Morocco
Euproctus platycephalus (Sardinian brook salamander) – Italy
Proteus anguinus parkelj (Black olm) — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia
Discoglossus montalenti (Corsican painted frog) — Corsica

Once in their biosecure facility, their new home, the species will be bred under the care of experts. Amphibian Ark falls under the auspices of the IUCN Amphibian Conservation Action Plan, so as each species multiplies, the root problems for its near extinction will be analyzed by a bigger scientific team, hopefully resulting in breakthroughs so that the species can return to the wild.

Didn’t want to end the day on the tone of that last post. Enjoy this story of high school sweethearts who went on to become research biologists, get married (althought I’m not sure it was in that order) and, today, track frogs in Alabama.  They’re studying the effects of the practice of controlled burns (of forest land) on amphibian and reptile life. Insert “burning love” pun here. 

Next Page »