Molly Bletz and Reid Harris from James Madison University received a Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund grant to fund a pilot study on anti-chytrid skin bacteria on frogs in Madagascar! In fact, the proposal received one of two Board Special Awards from MBZ.  This project is a collaboration between Reid and Molly, the Chytrid Emergency Cell of Madagascar, Association Mitsinjo, and the Amphibian Specialist Group of Madagascar. They wish to thank everyone for their support and enthusiasm for this project.  Their collaboration with those who have worked for many years on frogs and frog conservation in Madagascar is making this project possible. They will be traveling to Madagascar in mid-August to begin this study.

Little is known about the life history of Malagasy amphibians, although these are obviously important to draw their conservation biology.  To fill this gap we started a series of works aimed to unveil ecological traits of some of the most attractive species of frogs from the Grand’Ile. In such a context we recently published a paper on the journal HERPETOLOGICA, entitled “Spatial ecology of Scaphiophryne gottlebei in the canyons of the Isalo Massif, Madagascar”, by Andreone F., Eusebio Bergò P., Mercurio V. and Rosa G.

Scaphiophryne gottlebei

Here what we reported in the abstract:

The Rainbow Frog Scaphiophryne gottlebei lives within the humid canyons that cross the Isalo Massif, central-southern Madagascar. Knowing that a single haplotype dominates the largest part of its distribution range raised questions about the dispersal ability of the species. We affixed external radio transmitters to 36 individuals of S. gottlebei to understand whether the adults of this species actively displaced from the canyon they inhabit. We studied 13 males and 7 females in 2009 and 7 males and 9 females in 2011 over two periods (November–December 2009 and January–February 2011). Study sessions were chosen due to the different meteorological conditions: the first is the beginning of the rainy season, which corresponds to the start of reproduction; and the second being the end of the rainy season, which corresponds to a wetter period during which individuals are more likely to be feeding in order to increase body weight. Our results revealed that there is no significant difference in the activity patterns between sexes and that rain and temperature stimulate the dispersal rate. The distance covered by the individuals did not differ between males and females; the range varied from a few centimeters to approximately 50 m, although two individuals displaced more than 100 m in a single day. These data suggest that individuals of this species are quite phylopatric to the canyons they inhabit. The generalized haplotype sharing observed might then be

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A recent paper published on HERPETOLOGY NOTES showed that – until now – chytrid is not yet signalled in Madagascar

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A molecular survey across Madagascar does not yield positive records of the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Vance T. Vredenburg, Louis du Preez, Liliane Raharivololoniaina, David R. Vieites, Miguel Vences, Ché Weldon, Herpetology Notes, volume 5: 507-517 (2012)

Madagascar harbors a rich and diverse amphibian fauna, with over 280 nominal species of native frogs, all of which are endemic to the island. Although many species are threatened predominantly by habitat destruction, so far this fauna has not experienced any enigmatic declines as amphibians have in other parts of the globe. The amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), associated with mass amphibian die offs in Europe, the Americas and Australia has so far not been detected in Madagascar, but surveys so far were based mainly on histological examination of frog samples, with molecular data from only a single site. Here, we present results from a molecular screening of altogether 300 frog specimens belonging to 53 species in 13 genera, from 12 sites throughout Madagascar spanning all of Madagascar‘s major bioclimatic regions and an array of different elevations from 20 to 2400 m above sea level. All samples were analyzed using a standard quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay and yielded only negative results, suggesting the widespread absence or very localized and low prevalence of the amphibian chytrid fungus across Madagascar during the sampling years 2006 and 2007.

I received from Devin Edmonds an update of the captive breeding program in Andasibe. I am glad to share it with the readers of the Blog and with the members of Facebook page “A Conservation Strategy for the Amphibians of Madagascar”


The area around the village of Andasibe in east-central Madagascar is one of the world’s true amphibian biodiversity hotspots. At least 100 species of frogs are found within a 30 km radius of town. The community-run conservation organization Mitsinjo ( has developed a biosecure captive breeding facility for amphibian species from this area as part of the call for this within the Sahonagasy Action Plan.

The captive breeding facility in May, 2012.

This facility aides conservation efforts in Madagascar by 1) conducting husbandry research on frog species from varied ecological guilds which have never been kept or bred in captivity before 2) managing captive assurance populations of local threatened species so reintroduction or supplementation programs can be developed as needed and 3) training future Malagasy amphibian conservationists in frog husbandry skills so other facilities can be established elsewhere in Madagascar. 

A floor plan of the facility and the three separate rooms for live food production, captive breeding, and quarantine.

Heterixalus betsileo and Stumpffia sp. “Ranomafana” are two of seven species being kept for husbandry research.

The Mitsinjo facility, which was constructed between November 2010 and March 2011, measures 185 m2 and contains separate rooms for live food production, captive frog populations, and quarantine. Live foods include five species of cricket, a fruit fly, and a cockroach, which have all been sourced locally from around Andasibe. Production of live foods is central to the success of the project, and technicians are currently working to breed additional invertebrates to diversify the diets of the captive amphibians.