Ex situ-breeding and reintroduction of native amphibians
© Axel Gebauer
To breed and reintroduce amphibians into their former range in Germany
There are 21 native amphibian species in Germany. 16 of these are considered threatened at the national level and have been included in the country's Red List. 2 species are considered to be critically endangered, 5 endangered, 5 vulnerable, and 2 near threatened. One more is rare due to its limited range within the country, and another is declining.
While chytrid fungus, a pathogen causing worldwide dramatic losses in amphibians, does occur in Central Europe, it does not appear to be the reason for the overall precarious situation of the German amphibians. The main reasons are rather habitat loss and fragmentation, and the high number of migrating animals being killed by road traffic.
As part of the long-term Amphibian Conservation Programme of the zoos, animal parks and wildlife parks in the German-speaking area, at least 27 institutions have decided to take measures to improve the survival of amphibians locally, i.e. on their properties or in their neighbourhood. Activities include monitoring and research, rehabilitation or creation of habitats, and, where necessary, translocations and reintroductions. These activities are accompanied by educational programmes.
Several amphibian species have become completely extinct in some parts of the City of Nuremberg and are threatened in the remaining area: the tree frog (Hyla arborea), the spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus), and the crested newt (Triturus cristatus). Many of their former habitats have been restored in
recent years but, due to roads and other barriers, they cannot be resettled
naturally by the amphibians.
The Nuremberg Zoo, a Natura 2000 Area (FFH 6532-372), has established populations of “artificially” bred crested newts, tree frogs and spadefoots in newly constructed habitats. The clutches are collected and the larvae raised in the controlled environment of aquariums, thus reducing to a minimum the naturally very high mortality during this criticall lifespan. In autumn, the subadults are released within the zoo, a procedure which already resulted in a clear increase of the populations. The following generations will be relocated during the next decade in the region of Nuremberg with a view of establishing new stable populations.
It is clearly understood that reintroductions have to be carried out professionally to avoid the spreading of chytrid and other diseases, and that they are a last resort and should only be used where the chances of natural immigration are minimal.
WAZA Conservation Project 08026 is implemented by the Nuremberg Zoo in collaboration with the local nature conservation authorities and the Natural History Society of Nuremberg.
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© Axel Gebauer