Devon conservationists are heading back to East Africa to help save rare amphibians.
Paignton Zoo curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates Mike Bungard and Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust overseas conservation officer Andy Bowkett visited the Uzungwa Scarp region of Tanzania in December last year.
Now, an international conservation fund has awarded the charity a grant of 8,000 Euros to set up a new conservation project in the area. The two will spend a month in Tanzania recruiting and training three Tanzanian nationals who will be employed for six months to carry out vital survey work along the Uzungwa Scarp.
Mike Bungard told the Devon Week: “EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, has given us 8,000 Euros. The grant will pay for us to find and train local people and equip them to conduct the survey.”
Important species include Nectophyrnoides wendyae – Wendy’s forest toad – and Nectophyrnoides poyntoni – Poynton’s forest toad – (both listed as critically endangered) and Hyperolius kihangensis, the Kihanga reed frog, which is classed as endangered.
“These species are hyper-endemic, which means they may only be found in this one small location. We want to learn more about them. We might also find new species no one knows about,” said Mike.
“There have been surveys in the area before – but this will be the first major search for these species. It’s a biodiversity hotspot threatened by deforestation and climate change. In addition, the chytrid fungus that is killing amphibians around the world is very close. We have no idea how it will affect the area.”
The EAZA grant will fund a Rapid Ecological Assessment of key sites along the Uzungwa Scarp.
Mike said: “This will provide new information on which we can base our long-term conservation efforts.” Data will also be sent to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the Red List assessments.
Project partners include Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, Italy, the Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Centre and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
For more information go to the Paignton Zoo site or ring 01803 697500.
(image: Devon Conservationists Andy Bowkett left, Mike Bungard right)
(from a press release)