Our Projects in 2016
Assessment of the current status and conservation of the critically endangered endemic Malvasa Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus eusebianus)
The toads of genus Atelopus represent one of the most threatened amphibian taxa in the world. Three species of Atelopus are considered extinct while 80% or the remaining 90 are listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered.
The Malvasa Stubfoot Toad (Atelopus eusebianus) is endemic of the Central Cordillera in Southwestern Colombia and it has been categorized as critically endangered since 2004. The species is being known from only four localities with a couple of dozens of specimens. Up to date, no monitoring of the species has ever been conducted. Collection of first data on the species’ ecology (activity pattern, main food items, temperature preferences, etc.) as well as analysis of the threats (direct human impact, effects of the potential predator, presence of chytridiomycosis) is an essential part of the research plan.
Gathered data on the environment and potential threats will serve as a basis for a report with recommendations about the species conservation and improve awareness of local community so that authorities can take informed decisions on what locations to protect locally. A report will be prepared to update the IUCN Red List status.
The influence of landscape structure on distribution and genetic variation of Luristan newt
Luristan newt (Neurergus kaiseri), endemic to the southern Zagros Mountains of Iran, is one of the least studied salamanders in the world. Because of its high dependence on streams, the Luristan newt is patchily distributed in mountainous areas. However, it leaves the water outside the breeding season and appears in oak-pistachio open woodlands. As streams are mainly surrounded by open patches of woodland with rock outcrops, it is expected that the oak-pistachio forest matrix between breeding streams influences the success of migration between sites and consequently the population genetic structure of the species.
Though Luristan newt is protected by Iranian national legislation, its distribution area is not protected. Actions need to be taken immediately for identifying presence sites, barriers to gene flow, and preventing illegal exploitation of the species populations.
Though listed as ‘Critically endangered’ by the IUCN, many ecological aspects of habitat and genetic structure of this species are unknown. The following project aims at giving an insight into the genetic diversity and geographic distribution of the species remnant populations. Essential parts of the project of Mahmoud-Reza Hemami from the Isfahan University of Technology are:
- Mapping the geographic distribution of Luristan newt
- Determining and comparing genetic diversity and structure of populations
- Influence of landscape parameters on gene flow
The project aims also at identifying the effects of natural or anthropogenic barriers of gene flow. Its outcomes can be used to identify priority areas for future in-situ conservation efforts.
Partial Restoration and Expansion of the Liesl Lake (Bavaria): Conserving the Northern Crested Newth in Bavaria
In 1986 the Liesl Lake in Bavaria still hosted populations of the Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus), the Alpine Newt (Triturus alpestris), the Smooth Newth (Triturus vulgaris), the Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) and the Edible frog (Rana x esculenta).Since then, the water body has been almost completely silted up and most of the amphibian species have disappeared. In 2001 there was just one population of the Edible frog found in the Liesl Lake.
In order to restore the water body as an important amphibian spawning ground, the lake was partial de-silted in 2005. Six years later there were breeding populations of Northern Crested Newt and Agile Frog; the restoration measures have obviously brought these amphibian species back.
The following project is aimed to secure the sustainable long-term conservation of the Northern crested newt and other endangered amphibian species, such as the Agile Frog and the European tree frog by creating two more spawning water bodies. The project of the Landschaftsverband Traunstein e. V. (Landscape Assosiation Traunstein) consists of further partial de-silting of the Liesl Lake and of the creation of a new large spawning water body
The Northern Crested Newt in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany): Comparing populations, living at different altitudes
The Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) is distributed in Germany mainly in the plains and foothill zone (planar and colline zone), reaching its vertical distribution limit at about 800 m. Though officially protected by legislation, the species still suffers substantial population decline.
The following study, funded the Amphibian Conservation Fund of German zoo associations and private participants in the German-speaking region as well as Stiftung Artenschutz, aims at providing an insight into the ecology of high-altitude crested newt populations. Heiko Hinneberg from the University of Tübingen takes a closer look at the correlation between the newt populations’ size and the altitude that they live at. Furthermore the study aims at identifying habitat parameters, essential for high-altitude populations (water body depth etc.).
The study’s outcomes will serve as basis for the development of habitat management recommendations.
Conserving threatened amphibians in the Colombian Pacific
In 2002 Fundacion ProAves created El Pangan Bird Reserve with the aim of conserving forest habitats in the Columbian Pacific. In 2011 the organization established also the Ranita Terribilis Bird Reserve to protect one of the most poisonous vertebrate species in the world – the endemic Golden Poison Frog (Phyllobates terribilis).
For the last 14 years Fundación ProAves has been intensively working in both reserves, achieving the direct conservation of 20.712 acres. An important part of the work is conservation and environmental education as well as monitoring and research.
The Amphibian Conservation Fund of German zoo associations and private participants in the German-speaking region as well as Stiftung Artenschutz supports this project, aimed at the conservation of the endangered Atelopus elegans, Phyllobates terribilis, Oophaga sylvatica and Hyloscirtus alitolilax. For six months Fundación ProAves will monitor abovementioned species end evaluate the threats they are faced with in the protected areas. The proposed conservation measures – monitoring, environmental education, strengthening cooperation between public and private institutions, conservation organizations and local residents – are intended to contribute also to the protection of eight other amphibian species, threatened through habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade. Another main part of the project is evaluating the use of coconuts as artificial larval habitat for Golden Poison Frogs, in order to improve reproductive success of the species. Gained knowledge could be later applied for the development of suitable conservation measures for other amphibian species.
Assessing the impact of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis / B. salamandrivorans on Vietnamese salamander populations and establishing the risk of Vietnamese Bd/ B.sal strains for European urodeles
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), a fungal pathogen that causes chytridiomycosis in salamanders and newts has emerged only recently as a potential threat to European species. Bsal has been linked to several severe population declines of salamander and newt populations in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans is lethal for infected salamanders, while frogs and caecilians seem to be resistant. It is expected that Bsal was accidentally introduced from Asia to Europe via the international pet trade.
A Vietnamese-German working group will contribute to a larger scale project through sample collection in the field, in order to assess the infection frequency in wild Vietnamese populations. Skin swab samples will be collected from three different species – Tylototriton vietnamensis, T. ziegleri and Paramesotriton deloustali – which represent relevant taxa within the international pet trade and are vulnerable to diverse threats.
Samples will be frozen and subsequently sent to the University of Gent for analyses, where they will first be examined for the presence and quantity of both fungi. Based on the information of Bd / Bsal prevalence in the Vietnamese salamandrids, populations for chytrid strain isolation will be selected. Isolated strains will be characterized using molecular methods, using either multilocus sequence typing (MLST) or genome sequencing. Finally, the virulence of these strains for European salamanders will be determined
Field research and sample collection will be financed by The Amphibian Conservation Fund of German zoo associations and private participants in the German-speaking region, while funding for molecular analyses will be provided by the bilateral FWO (Research Foundation Flanders) and NAFOSTED (The National Foundation for Science and Technology Development) project to the Belgian promoters. Flights will be provided by the Cologne Zoo.
Distribution, ecology and conservation of the amphibians of Ambodiriana forest (Madagascar)
Madagascar has an incredibly high level of amphibian diversity and endemism and it ranks among the richest country in the world for its amphibian diversity. But this unique richness is severely threatened by the high rate of deforestation. Chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by a fungus, is the second main threat for amphibians worldwide. The fungus was first recorded in Madagascar in 2010 but we still do not know how much Malagasy amphibian populations are affected. Another new threat is the spread of the invasive Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) which was reported in 2015 from Toamasina and its surrounding.
This project focuses on the amphibian species of Ambodiriana forest (east coast of Madagascar) and actions for their conservation. This small forest (67 ha) is one of the last remaining fragments of low elevation tropical rainforests. Up to now, Ambodiriana forest has been prevented from logging and slash-and-burn agriculture for two reasons - it used to be considered as a sacred forest by local villagers and it has been protected thanks to an agreement of management between the local authorities and a local NGO.
The project includes field surveys with the aim of studying the ecological needs of all present species, evaluation of their conservation status, identifying potential new threats and actions for their conservation. Furthermore conservation activities include forest patrols inside the Ambodiriana forest and public awareness and education measures. Meetings of both coordinators of the project with local authorities are planned to get a new management agreement of the forest.