Ongoing projects

A) Disease screening in amphibians

B) Amphibian Chytrid Fungus Early Detection Plan For Madagascar

C) Probiotics for the amphibians of Madagascar

 

A) Disease screening in amphibians

Ivoloina, Madagascar, 12th-17th October, 2010. Madagascar’s national amphibian conservation action plan (Sahonagasy Action Plan, SAP) highlighted the imminent threat posed by the fungal disease Chytridiomycosis (Chytrid, Bd) to the countries endemic amphibians.

Chytrid workshop 2010 (Gerardo Garcia)

The SAP recognised that capacity needed to be built locally in order that the country could respond quickly and effectively should the disease arrive. A specific workshop was designed in order to fill this gap in capacity. The workshop was run at Parc Zoologique d’Ivoloina, on the East coast of Madagascar in collaboration with multiple international, national and local organisations with an active interest in amphibian conservation. Around thirty participants from a combination of government, non-government and private organisations attended the six day training workshop. The aims of the workshop were to initiate plans for a nationwide early warning detection plan for chytrid; build capacity within Madagascar to carry out this plan; and to begin raising awareness about the implications of captive management as an option should chytrid arrive on the island. There was significant interest from conservationists and researchers within Madagascar to attend the workshop resulting in us training double the number of people we had determined to train in the initial proposal! A nationwide Chytrid Fungus Early Detection Plan was also developed during the workshop with input from course participants in the selection of the key sites to survey.

Chytrid workshop 2010 (Gerardo Garcia)

This plan is in the process of being presented to relevant Ministries by the Amphibian Specialist Group of Madagascar along with a letter of recommendation to help facilitate the process of obtaining samples from amphibians within protected areas for screening and whole specimens for their establishment in captivity, should it be required. Three potential venues for the establishment of captive populations of potentially threatened amphibian species were identified, including two linked to Non-Government Organisations and one based at the University of Antananarivo. Course feedback was very positive with participants finding the workshop clear, very practical and well-explained. They believed it enhanced their knowledge and their ability to build capacity within their own institutions for amphibian conservation, in particular with regards to detecting chytrid, should it arrive.

Workshop newspaper (Franco Andreone)

Participants did feel that a professional translator would have aided communication between non-native French speakers and participants and believed that a wider audience should have been invited. What they particularly valued was the ability to build relations between organisations represented on the workshop through the exchange of ideas and issues between participants. As additional funding was forthcoming from local organisations we were able to make a post-workshop seed grant of approximately 4000 Euros available to participant to help them begin to put into practice some of the skills and understanding developed on the workshop. All applicants will be given formal feedback on their grant-writing skills (to help them develop their grant-writing abilities) and particularly well-written grants will be awarded funding in the New Year. This grant constitutes one of the steps the ITC is taking to help turn conservation training into action on the ground. Feedback from local workshop partners showed that what was required in 2011 was a second workshop specifically designed specifically to deepen local capacity for the captive management of amphibians which could be threatened by chytrid should it be detected through the nation-wide Early Detection Plan.

 

B) Amphibian Chytrid Fungus Early Detection Plan For Madagascar

Coordination

Plethodontohyla notosticta (Franco Andreone)

All activities of the Early Detection Plan (EDP) are currently coordinated by a central organization. The Antananarivo University, Département de Biologie Animale (UADBA) has been designated as the organization responsible for coordinating the EDP. Activities for which UADBA is responsible include:
  • logistical organisation of sample collection (survey)
  • administration of field workers
  • handling of samples
  • compilation of survey report following the field season and sample analysis
Survey

Heterixalus madagascariensis (Franco Andreone)

The survey is designed in a way that maximizes the likelihood of detecting chytrid fungus and takes into account the availability of human and financial resources. It is further based on principles that govern the biology of both the amphibians and the chytrid fungus. These criteria are to be used to design a repeatable and quantifiable sampling regime. Sampling will be conducted during the amphibian breeding season which coincides with the rain season (November – April), since this is the period when amphibians are most abundant and active. We propose one survey at the start of the season and one near the end of the season, thus harnessing the opportunity sample both early explosive breeders and juveniles that start to emerge towards the latter half of the season. Field Sites The following considerations have been taken into account when we selected field sites for monitoring:
  1. amphibian diversity – high diversity and abundance implies high availability of hosts and high transmission rates between hosts
  2. tourist value – high visitation rate by tourists increases the chance of accidental introduction of chytrid
  3. geographic distribution – the distribution of sites should cover the largest possible area of the island and should include high altitude sites, which are prone to amphibian population declines
  4. baseline data – it is advantages to select sites where baseline data are available from similar former surveys
  5. human resources – areas where people are already involved in amphibian research should be preferred
Given the above criteria we propose the following sites that have been divided into eight core sites that should form the minimum number of sites, an additional two possible sites that could be included provided that the manpower is available:
Core Sites
Responsible Organization
Maroantsetra
Antongil Conservation
Ankarafantsika
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Kirindy
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Ankaratra
Langaha
Antoetra
Conservation International
Andasibe
Association Mitsinjo
Ivoloina
Madagascar Fauna Group
Fort Dauphin
Biodiversity Fauna and Conservation
Sampling We established that 50 animals of one species will be collected at each of the sites. The species that are selected should be both common and easy to collect. In case less than 50 animals of the same species can be found, the deficit can be made up with a second and a third species to yield a pooled species sample batch. The following species are proposed for the various sites:
Site
Species 1
Species 2
Species 3
Farankaraina
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidacytlus betsilianus
Heterixalus madagascariensis
Ankarafantsika
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidactylus ulcerosus
Heterixalus luteostriatus
Kirindy
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantella betsileo
Heterixalus luteostriatus
Ankaratra
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidactylus curtus
Heterixalus betsileo
Antohetra
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidactylus curtus
Mantella cowani
Andasibe
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidacytlus betsilianus
Heterixalus punctatus
Ivoloina
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidacytlus betsilianus
Heterixalus madagascariensis
Fort Dauphine
Ptychadena mascareniensis
Mantidacytlus betsilianus
Heterixalus boettgeri
Frogs will be sampled by swabbing the frog using fine-tip swabs and employing hygiene techniques as not to contaminate samples. When all field surveys will be completed the samples should be sent for diagnostic analysis. The following institutions are given as the places where diagnostic analysis should be performed: 1) University of Milano-Bicocca 2) NRF Molecular Laboratory.
Early Detection Plan.

Frogs in Madagascar are threatened by the arrival of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which has already decimated frog populations around the world and caused extinctions of numerous species. We do not want the same catastrophic declines and extinction to happen to the frogs of Madagascar. Therefore, it is imperative to consider a prevention and mitigation strategy promptly. Initiatives to keep Bd out of Madagascar and monitor its potential arrival are in place; however, a plan to mitigate and limit its spread around Madagascar once it arrives is needed.

 

People consume yogurt to maintain and restore good bacteria, which protect us from disease, and the same principle works for frogs! Amphibian skin harbors many bacterial species, and some of these bacteria are beneficial and can inhibit the lethal chytrid fungus. The addition of locally-occurring protective bacteria to amphibians has effectively prevented disease in lab experiments and in recent field trials in the USA.

 

Molly Bletz and Reid Harris are collaborating with experts on Malagasy amphibians and will proactively find effective anti-Bd probiotics in order to implement probiotic conservation strategies to curb the devastation of Bd if and when it arrives in Madagascar and help preserve the remarkable amphibian biodiversity on the island using the following plan.

 

C) Probiotics For The Amphibians Of Madagascar

Frogs in Madagascar are threatened by the arrival of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which has already decimated frog populations around the world and caused extinctions of numerous species. We do not want the same catastrophic declines and extinction to happen to the frogs of Madagascar. Therefore, it is imperative to consider a prevention and mitigation strategy promptly. Initiatives to keep Bd out of Madagascar and monitor its potential arrival are in place; however, a plan to mitigate and limit its spread around Madagascar once it arrives is needed.

People consume yogurt to maintain and restore good bacteria, which protect us from disease, and the same principle works for frogs! Amphibian skin harbors many bacterial species, and some of these bacteria are beneficial and can inhibit the lethal chytrid fungus. The addition of locally-occurring protective bacteria to amphibians has effectively prevented disease in lab experiments and in recent field trials in the USA.

 Molly Bletz and Reid Harris are collaborating with experts on Malagasy amphibians and will proactively find effective anti-Bd probiotics in order to implement probiotic conservation strategies to curb the devastation of Bd if and when it arrives in Madagascar and help preserve the remarkable amphibian biodiversity on the island using the following plan.

They have developed two strategies for probiotic discovery:

Strategy One (Species-Specific Approach):  Find probiotics for critically-endangered species in Madagascar, such as Mantella aurantiaca.  These probiotics can be administered by individual probiotics baths.

Strategy Two (Community-based Approach): Find probiotics that can protect amphibian communities by treating breeding sites where amphibians congregate. 

Bioaugmentation approaches must use bacteria found on amphibian in the local environment to improve success and minimize biosafety concerns.

These strategies are divided into six phases of a filtering protocol to find effective anti-Bd probiotics to protect Malagasy frogs.

Filtering Protocol: Six phases

Phase

 

Purpose

1

Microbe sampling

Collect bacteria from phylogenetically diverse amphibian species

2

Bd-Inhibition Assays

Filter out bacterial candidates that do not inhibit Bd

3

Environmental Persistence Trials
* Only for community-based strategies

Determine which candidates can persist in the environment to enable environmental treatment

4

Host Colonization/Persistence Trials

Determine which of the candidates are able to establish effectively on the target host amphibian

5

Clinical Trials

Ensure that bacterial candidates can inhibit Bd and reduce the effects of disease on amphibians

6

Small-scale Field Trials

Measure the ability of a probiotic candidate to be successful in nature

END

Effective Probiotics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probiotic disease mitigation for wildlife is a new conservation frontier (Bletz et al. 2013).  Significant progress has been made in the field of probiotics as a possible tool for mitigating amphibian chytridiomycosis in the laboratory and in the field. Applying these techniques before the arrival of Bd is still a novel concept, but is well worth investigating in Madagascar.  Probiotic conservation strategies offer the possibility of conserving species while keeping then in their native habitats. This is important because the capacity does not exist to house all the species that need to be protected from Bd.  Finding effective probiotics for frogs has the potential to prevent catastrophic declines in Madagascar.  Once Bd is detected in the country, we aim to have a bank of local probiotics that can stem the devastation of the spreading pathogen.  Preserving frog populations is critical to the ecosystems and for the people of Madagascar.

Visit the website www.frogprobiotics.or, for more details about our project, references and to meet the scientists involved!



Log in