The island of Madagascar is home to nearly 300 described species of frogs, almost all of which are found nowhere else. With an additional 200+ candidate frog species recently identified, this puts the country supporting more than 7% of the world’s frog species.
Andasibe is at the heart of it. Within a 30 km radius of village there are more than 100 species of frogs. Few other places on the island, let alone the world, can compare.
Threats Facing Andasibe’s Amphibians
While the area supports a tremendous richness of amphibian species, they are also under extreme threat. Habitat loss is the largest cause for concern. Emerging infectious diseases, collection for the pet and food trades, and the ongoing effects of climate change are contributing to declining amphibian populations. A national conservation strategy targeted at the frogs of Madagascar known as the Sahonagasy Action Plan has been implemented to help combat these threats.
Locally endemic frog species in the Andasibe-area that are threatened with extinction include the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca), Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) and Marbled Rain Frog (Scaphiophryne marmorata), however another 30+ species of frogs in Andasibe are so poorly known that conservationists are unable to assess whether their populations are in jeopardy of extinction or not.
Amphibian Survival Assurance Center of Andasibe
In April 2011 we launched Madagascar’s first biosecure facility to safeguard amphibians from extinction. Through a contract with the Direction Générale des Forêts and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group of Madagascar, we now keep 11 local species including a genetically viable population of the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca), offspring from which are intended for introductions at created breeding ponds.
In addition to maintaining the Golden Mantella, we also study the captive care requirements of poorly known species. These frogs serve as surrogates for similar threatened species so that if a threat emerges that cannot be addressed in time to prevent extinction we can quickly establish a colony at our facility. This is especially important in light of the amphibian chytrid fungus Bd in Madagascar, for which there is no cure for in the wild and establishing captive populations is one of the few actions that can be done to prevent local populations and even entire species from disappearing.
Our facility is staffed by seven Mitsinjo members from the Andasibe area who work together not only to maintain the the captive frogs and uphold biosecurity measures, but also to produce live foods in quantities large enough to sustain the captive populations.
Long-term Population Monitoring
Are the frogs of Andasibe headed towards extinction like so many other amphibian species elsewhere in the world? If so, which species or types of frogs?
These are questions that can’t be answered unless regular surveying efforts are carried out.
Our long-term monitoring team consists of more than a dozen Mitsinjo members who are trained in frog identification. Several times each month they head out in the night when frogs are active and collect vital data that will help detect declines as they occur.
This long-term monitoring program not only helps the frogs, but like all of our activities, supplements the income of our members and helps provide an environmentally sound means to make a living.
The threat of emerging infectious diseases to wildlife is not unique to frogs but is especially worrisome in light of the amphibian chytrid fungus Bd. In extreme cases elsewhere in the world, this fungus has contributed to entire communities of amphibians falling apart and is thought to be responsible for the recent extinction of at least 200 species of frogs.
As part of the national monitoring program for Bd, Mitsinjo screens Andasibe’s frogs for the fungus twice per year. Since 2010 our members have sampled at least 700 individuals, helping ensure that we detect an outbreak as it occurs and can take swift action to address any declining populations associated with it.
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