(2) © Luis Coloma, (3) © Perth Zoo
Addressing the amphibian extinction crisis represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. One third to one half of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction, with probably more than 120 already gone in recent years. The IUCN Global Amphibian Assessment has alerted us to the fact that hundreds of species face threats that cannot be mitigated in the wild, and they require zoos and aquariums to save them in the short term until adequate conservation measures to secure wild populations can be developed.
WAZA has joined with two branches of the IUCN Species Survival Commission – the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group and the Amphibian Specialist Group – to form the Amphibian Ark (AArk). Since 2006 AArk has been helping the ex situ community to address the captive components of the IUCN Amphibian Conservation Action Plan, saving as many species as possible by providing global coordination, technical guidance, training, necessary linkages to other IUCN groups, communications, and guiding publicity and capital campaigns.
AArk's vision is the world's amphibians safe in nature, and its mission is ensuring the global survival of amphibians, focusing on those that cannot currently be safeguarded in nature.
Two full-time and four part-time dedicated positions coordinate all aspects of implementation within the AArk initiative; assist AArk partners in evaluating amphibian conservation needs for both in situ and ex situ conservation work; lead development and implementation of ex situ conservation training programmes for building capacity of individuals and institutions; and develop communications strategies, messages and materials to promote understanding and action on behalf of amphibian conservation.
Without immediate captive management as a stop-gap component of an integrated conservation effort, hundreds of amphibian species will become extinct. This conservation challenge is one that we, the ex situ community, are uniquely capable of addressing. Never before has the conservation community at large charged zoos and aquariums with a task of this magnitude. This is an opportunity for every zoo and aquarium, regardless of size, to make a vital conservation contribution, and for our community to be broadly acknowledged as a credible conservation partner. Supporting this call to action is clearly within the financial capacity of all zoos and aquariums, and engages the diverse expertise found within all institutions.
Participation of WAZA zoos and aquariums does not necessarily require the establishment of captive facilities for threatened amphibian species, although of course it is crucial that some of the larger institutions with existing amphibian husbandry expertise take an active role in saving threatened species. The amphibian husbandry section of the AArk website includes a great deal of information for those interested in establishing new ex situ conservation programmes. Other opportunities exist such as partnering with smaller facilities, sometimes in other regions, to help build capacity for local amphibian facilities; by using existing amphibian display facilities to help raise visitor awareness of the global amphibian crisis; or by making a donation to support the global coordination of AArk. With your help and commitment, AArk will help the ex situ community use their considerable expertise to help save threatened amphibians from extinction.
AArk's Frog MatchMaker programme currently includes over 50 conservation projects in 20 countries on four continents that require some level of external support to establish, or to complete, their amphibian conservation goals. Support for these programmes can be by way of donation of goods, staff time and expertise and of course, much-needed funds. Supporting these programmes is a great way for many institutions to become actively involved in helping to address the global amphibian crisis, without having to develop complex amphibian facilities themselves.
AArk's goal is 100% participation of WAZA zoos and aquariums and the regional associations. If we do not respond immediately and on an unprecedented scale, much of an entire vertebrate class will be lost, and we will have failed in our most basic conservation mission as defined in the World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy.
For more information about AArk, please visit the website www.amphibianark.org.
(2) © Luis Coloma, (3) © Perth Zoo