Recent Achievements in Conservation Frog Breeding

By Sebastian Wolf

In early 2016 Mitsinjo’s frog team brought several new, locally occurring frog species into the breeding facility, some of which had never been kept in captivity before.

After acclimatization we were curious when or if they would start breeding. Natural reproduction period of most local frogs starts with the first rains in December or January, yet the 2016-2017 season has been different due to the fact that rain was largely missing until now. Fortunately, Mitsinjo’s captive frogs did not care about this dry “wet season” as they continued to overwhelm us with eggs. All species in our facility except of one at least produced eggs and tadpoles and the first young tadpoles have successfully metamorphosed into froglets by now (sometimes incredibly tiny creatures like the one in the picture, an already 3 week old Platypelis barbouri which is roughly 4 mm in size).

Platypelis barbouri was one of the new species Mitsinjo acclimated to captivity in 2016.

Platypelis barbouri was one of the new species Mitsinjo acclimated to captivity in 2016.

There are two crucial issues in frog breeding: finding out which climatic and microhabitat conditions trigger reproduction, and caring for – often plenty – of froglets that need large quantities of small prey insects. Small changes in cage design (what scientists and zookeepers call structural enrichment) finally did the trick with Mitsinjo’s frogs and immediately resulted in egg-laying.

Having the world’s first captive bred animals of a certain species is exciting, yet not the end oft he effort. Aside from successfully raising froglets to mature individuals once, the next step should always be to breed the captive frogs into the next generation(s). This already worked out with our flagship species, the Golden Mantella where some of our second generation captive animals will soon be released at ponds within their natural distribution range. Among the species we bred for the first time were some elusive microhylids, a conspicuous bright-eye treefrog and a mantellid frog that has no free-swimming tadpole stage but where eggs develop into froglets inside the egg capsules – we call this the low-budget frog as it does not need to be fed during its larval stage.

The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) population at the breeding facility helps ensure the species survives in the wild.

The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) population at the breeding facility helps ensure the species survives in the wild.

Looking at the recent efforts raises our hope that we are capable of breeding other endemic species as well, in case of any emergency event that needs immediate rescue or mitigation action. Aside from husbandry experiments that we conduct to steadily improve care and maintenance protocols, the next big thing will be running breeding trials with more stream-breeding frogs as they are an important part of the frog fauna in rainforests here and can be quite demanding in some aspects.

Raising healthy  frogs also requires vitamin and mineral supplements and proper food for tadpoles. Two companies thankfully provided free food and minerals for this breeding season (Aquarium Muenster and Keweloh Animal Health).

The Story of Mitsinjo and the Greater Bamboo Lemur

By Rainer Dolch

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) is the largest of Madagascar’s bamboo-eating lemurs and one of the most threatened lemurs in Madagascar. For more than a century, it was believed to be extinct in almost all Madagascar, except for a remnant population in the south-east of the island.

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), one of the most endangered primates in the world, is one of our target species that we have monitored at Torotorofotsy

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), one of the most endangered primates in the world, is one of Mitsinjo’s focal species.

In 2004, thanks to the intrepid Jean Rafalimandimby, Mitsinjo excitingly discovered a new population of the Greater Bamboo Lemur in Torotorofotsy, reconfirming that this critically endangered bamboo specialist species still holds on in areas where it had gone unnoticed for so long.

Mitsinjo members Rafaly and Tiana Radio-tracking the Greater Bamboo Lemur at Torotorofotsy.

Mitsinjo members Rafaly and Tiana Radio-tracking the Greater Bamboo Lemur at Torotorofotsy.

Together with our partner organizations (The Aspinall FoundationConservation International, GERP), Mitsinjo designed and conducted methodical surveys into the Ankeniheny-Zahamena forest corridor (that lies to the north of Torotorofotsy) and into the Marolambo-Nosivolo area. With the invaluable help of local people in these areas, results have since yielded evidence for several further populations of this critically endangered lemur scattered throughout these forests.


Prolemur simus research and conservation actions undertaken by Mitsinjo 

– Rediscovered population at Torotorofotsy when the species was thought to have since been extinct outside southeast Madagascar.

– Conducted surveys for Prolemur simus in forest corridor further east and north of Torotorofotsy.

– Potential investigation further away in Makira and Tsinjoarivo (with Sadabe).

– Monitored population at Torotorofotsy for two years using radio-telemetry.

– Contributed to the formation of the Prolemur simus Working Group


We have also looked into the possible occurrence of the species in places as far away as Tsinjoarivo (with Sadabe) and Makira (with Simpona).

At the same time as we searched for new populations, Mitsinjo (in collaboration with the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership) radio-collared several animals in Torotorofotsy and, during two years of monitoring, gathered a wealth of data on their behaviour, and ecology that will help design an adequate conservation action plan Prolemur simus. Further research by our para-ecologist team focuses on collecting fecal samples for genetic analyses and on bamboo density necessary for the survival of the species.

bamboo

The classic traces of the greater bamboo lemur: large piles of broken bamboo.

The species apparently requires very large home ranges. As a consequence, the Torotorofotsy population of Prolemur simus is not restricted to the Ramsar site of the same name but ventures out into areas being encroached by mining. Mitsinjo coordinates with both the Ambatovy nickel mine and the Izouard/Louys graphite mine in order to minimize possible impacts from their respective activities.

Greater Bamboo Lemur

Mitsinjo’s committment to saving the Greater Bamboo Lemur has since contributed to the formation of the Prolemur simus Working Group, kindly initiated by the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group.