2 December 2011

Have I got newts for you – November

Snakes on the slide
Here in the UK, experts in the South East have just declared that the adder is in more urgent need of new conservation efforts than any other reptile or amphibian species in Britain. At a recent conference, delegates heard about the drastic loss of habitat and resulting isolation and inbreeding that are contributing to declines. Meanwhile, Cyprus’ endangered native grass snake Natrix natrix cypriaca is on the verge of becoming extinct according to the island’s leading reptile expert. Despite funds being pledged for a breeding programme little has been done and drastic loss of habitat are threatening the dwindling population. In the US, an unusual step has been taken to try and establish if the South Florida rainbow snake has become extinct – a reward of $500 is on offer for verified sightings of the snake.
Sources: Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group, Cyprus Mail, Center for Biological Diversity

Frog match-maker service
Conservation group Amphibian Ark is aiming to connect supporters/donors with amphibian conservation projects in need via a new match making website. The site is currently includes 48 projects, many of them captive breeding initiatives, across 23 counties. The site is already off to a flying start – Denver Zoo has received some funding to establish a rescue population of the Lake Titicaca water frog.
Source: Mongabay

New studies shed light on deadly frog fungus
Several Researchers from San Francisco State University have mapped the emergence of the chytrid fungus in Central America by swabbing museum specimens. They’ve shown that the fungus marched southward during the 1970s and 1980s. This breakthrough technique allows species that have vanished from the wild, and only exist in jars in museums, to be tested for the fungus. Further research has been carried out by a team of international scientists, led by Dr Matthew Fisher of Imperial College London. They’ve found that trade in amphibians may be responsible for spreading the fungus. By allowing non-lethal forms of chytrid to come in to contact with each other, new lethal strains have been created which have decimated amphibian populations across the world. Another study, led by Dr Christian Hof of the University of Copenhagan, shows that the fungus is part of a three-pronged threat (with climate change an habitat loss) which could cause amphibian populations to decline faster than previously thought.
Soureces: Mongabay, Zoological Society of London and The Guardian

More species on the IUCN redlist
In November’s IUCN magazine two more frogs have been added to the ‘critically endangered’ list. The Green-eyed Bush Frog and the (fabulously named) Resplendent Shrub Frog are found in Western Ghats and Munnar and a recent study led by Delhi University found both species to be declining. Meanwhile, Madagascar’s snakes and lizards have also been added to the IUCN red list. Madagascar has over 370 species of retile, 95% of which are found nowhere else. Sadly, 40% are threatened with extinction.
Sources: IBN Live, and Conservation International

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