A significant challenge for ex situ programs relates to ensuring that all programs have adequate resources for their duration. Establishing facilities and collecting rescue populations is only the first, albeit perhaps the single greatest expense. However, it is insufficient to support only those first-year expenses without operational support for the long term, which may amount to years or even decades. In addition to financial planning, ex situ programs should establish at the onset a plan for working with partners to mitigate threats in the wild and, where necessary, getting animals back into the wild, as well as how to distribute the progeny of captive animals in the interim.
Given these potential complications, the AArk recommends that ex situ management is implemented:
- only when necessary, as determined by IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group field experts through AArk Conservation Needs Assessment Workshops or similar processes
- as near to the species’ range as possible, preferably by nationals in the same country
- in isolation from populations of the same species in the wild
- with linkage to in situ threat mitigation in order to minimize duration of the ex situ program and therefore risks
- through a management plan including all stakeholders and detailing long-term project strategies, including a business plan, measures of success and criteria for program termination, and distribution/ownership issues.
As part of our Conservation Needs Assessment process, we have developed an easy to use checklist that should be utilized prior to the commencement of any ex situ conservation breeding program for amphibians. If, and only if, all of the critical program aspects can be met for a species, should a new program be implemented. AArk’s program implementation tool has been updated and expanded and is a useful resource for checking how prepared your institution is to manage a conservation program for a particular species. It is a series of questions which help you to identify any components of setting up an ex situ conservation program which might not have been considered, or which might be somewhat lacking. Thirty-nine questions are grouped in eleven sections, although not all questions need to be answered – depending on responses to previous questions, subsequent questions may not be appropriate and are then hidden.
If an answer is provided which might indicate that additional preparation or resources are required, responses are generated, with suggestions of what could be done to better prepare the institution to manage the captive program. The responses follow a “traffic-light” color-coding system, with green responses indicating a positive result, yellow responses indicating a lack of information, orange responses indicating some form of low-level risk, and red responses showing that additional preparation or resources are definitely required before proceeding.
See the Establishing Ex Situ Amphibian Programs page for additional information on implementing amphibian conservation programs.