To study the diversity and ecology of amphibians and reptilians in Vietnam and Laos
Species and herpetofaunal communities of a natural habitat first have to be documented for consecutively understanding their interactions and ecology. And the compilation of the species' specific requirements, in turn, is the basic prerequisite for adequate species and habitat conservation measures.
Thus, together with the partners from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) of the Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), Hanoi, Cologne Zoo focuses on the inventory of the herpetofauna of Vietnam's last remaining forests. Vietnam has one of the richest amphibian and reptilian faunas in the world, but the herpetodiversity and its natural history is still poorly understood.
Our team, including several PhD students from Vietnam and Germany, compiles herpetofaunal lists for not yet or poorly studied regions or reserves, publishes new records and describes new species as basis for subsequent conservation management. So far, our working group already has discovered about hundred new amphibian and reptile species from Vietnam and Laos, based on morphological examination and molecular comparisons. Several of these newly discovered species bear the potential to serve as flagship species for a whole species community or reserve. For example, the beautiful WAZA tree frog (Gracixalus waza) from Vietnam or the bent-toed gecko species (Cyrtodactylus vilaphongi) from Laos, which proved to be the 10,000th known reptile species on earth. Here, also the first discovery in Vietnam of the crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), a species formerly only known from few localities in southern China, was of importance for subsequent conservation measures.
In a second step, ecological research of barely known or endemic amphibian and reptilian taxa is conducted, to gather data for improving and enforcing further conservation measures. Also based on ecological research and population analysis of the crocodile lizard in Vietnam, the species recently was included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an awareness campaign was implemented and a conservation breeding programme started, to name only some of the currently undergoing conservation actions. Natural history research also takes place for poorly known Vietnamese newts, such as the only recently described, endemic Vietnamese crocodile newt (Tylototriton vietnamensis) and Ziegler's crocodile newt (T. ziegleri). Student courses run by our German–Vietnamese team in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City help to educate and build up young academics and to increase biodiversity research outcomes directly in Vietnam.
WAZA Conservation Project 07011 is implemented by Cologne Zoo/University of Cologne in cooperation with the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hanoi, Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi, Hanoi University of Science, Hanoi, Vietnam Forestry University, Hanoi, Vietnam National Museum of Nature, Hanoi, University of Science, Ho Chi Minh City, Wildlife at Risk, Ho Chi Minh City, and National University of Lao PDR, Vientiane.
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