Captive breeding of an endangered species may ensure their survival when wild populations are severely threatened. It guards against the extinction of a species and, in the case of amphibians, can be both cost-effective and achievable. Captive breeding should not be regarded as a last-resort conservation action – the IUCN (World Conservation Union, part of the United Nations) endorses captive breeding as a proactive conservation measure and recommends it as a vital conservation action for all Critically Endangered species. A captive breeding colony is maintained outside of its natural habitat, giving rise to individuals that are sheltered from problems associated with their wild situation. This can be located within the species’ range, or in a foreign country that has the facilities to support a captive breeding programme for that species. Individuals may subsequently be released into the wild when the factors threatening them have been mitigated.
There are a number of factors that make amphibians good candidates for captive breeding programmes. The positive aspects include:
By coordinating global captive breeding efforts for amphibians, the Amphibian Ark (AArk) has entered the battle against the mass extinction of the world’s amphibians at a crucial time. It has the power to resuscitate amphibian populations that have been ravaged by chytrid, over-collection, and habitat degradation. But what can it do in the long-term for a species when there is no hope of returning it to its wild habitat? Where the streams have run dry, or the area has been destroyed by human land uses? Can you really keep a species in captive, artificial conditions indefinitely and say that it still survives? Or is it just a living museum specimen to remind us of what used to populate our tattered ecosystems? These are difficult questions for the AArk, but it seems insupportable to do nothing in the face of such potential losses.
In 2008, AArk will lead zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums in a globally coordinated public awareness campaign “The Year of the Frog”. The main goal of this campaign is to generate public awareness and understanding of the amphibian extinction crisis which represents the greatest species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. The money raised from this global campaign will help fund initiatives such as training courses, technical guidance, taxon survival efforts, fostering partnerships, capacity building, and communication activities. All these activities will ensure sustainability of the survival assurance populations of amphibians by creating a cash fund for this conservation work that will extend for beyond 2008.