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).

Earth Day at Mitsinjo

By Emily Schimpfle of Projects Abroad

This past week Projects Abroad and Association Mitsinjo teamed together to celebrate the 46th Anniversary of Earth Day.  We organized 6 different activities for one class of 74 children at the local primary school.  This included tree climbing, crafting, environmental education, sports, games, and a movie.  We also had a big meal with the children at the end of the long day.

So, with 6 volunteers, 5 teachers, and an assortment of other staff we started the day at the school in a parade with the children to Mitsinjo.  Once we arrived at the office and forest reserve, the kids were divided into 6 groups and the festivities began.  While the day didn’t go exactly as planned, we could tell the kids had a blast. It was their first field trip like this ever.  Everyone was able to make a musical instrument with used plastic bottles or bottle caps.  The kids flew down on a small zip line made especially for them with Mitsinjo partners Gasy Climb.  They learned about the importance of picking up trash and drinking clean water.  They were also able to let out some energy through sports and games at the national park.

At the end of the activities while we waited for food the children drew Earth Day related pictures.  To say we were all amazed at how talented they are at drawing is an understatement.  Kids drew things from flowers to lemurs to people.  Once the food was ready to be served everyone created a line waiting for the rice, beans and zebu.  We had bought 24 Kilos of rice thinking it may not be enough but in the end everyone had two servings.  After a full meal and some dancing the day came to an end with a walk back to the school.  While it was an exhausting day for everyone, it is one we will always remember.  

What do the tadpoles of little brown frogs eat?

We’re very pleased to be able to share some results from our amphibian captive breeding program with you this month. The full article can be found here.

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A juvenile Mantidactylus betsileanus frog from the study.

Published in the journal Alytes, our members worked together to investigate what is the best diet for the tadpoles of the Madagascar Betsileo Frog Mantidactylus betsileanus. We found a locally available shrimp and powdered spirulina aglae to work better for rearing the tadpoles than mustard greens.

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A tadpole in the study just about ready to complete metamorphosis.

Although the frog is not highly threatened, the information gained will help us develop future ex situ conservation programmes for species at risk that we have yet to learn how to keep in captivity. Perhaps just as importantly, the study helped our team of five amphibian technicians develop scientific expertise, and being able to answer biological questions using the scientific method allows us to make informed management decisions, not just about frogs but about the environment as a whole.

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Terrariums at the breeding facility that house the frogs.

A New Women’s Group in Torotorofotsy

One of the main challenges linking tourism to sustainable development in the Andasibe community is finding ways to ensure more than just your local guide benefit from a visit.

That’s why this past month we have been working with Project Manondroala and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation to launch the new Association Vehivavy Menalamba-Torotorofotsy, a women’s group dedicated to making local artisinal handicrafts for the Andasibe tourist market.03The group of 25 women have been working with us and the Finns to learn ways to make original handicrafts that are of a high-quality for visiting tourists. Although there are a number of small markets that sell souvenirs in the area, currently almost all are made elsewhere in Madagascar and brought to Andasibe for resale.04With this new organization the group works collectively, with all profits going back to the cooperative and directly to individual artisans. The official launch of the association and the inauguration of the women’s showroom took place on November 10th 2015. No visit to Torotorofotsy should be had without passing by to have a look!01

 

The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards in Andasibe

Some nice photos this week from our September 2015 Environmental Education program, featuring students from the Secondary School participating in a four week long course about forests, frogs, and lemurs. Below Mad Randrianasolo, Head of Conservation, explains about the process of reforestation at our largest tree nursery in Farahevitra.

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