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Afrotropical amphibians in zoos and aquariums: will they be on the ark?



    1. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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    • *Present address: S. Lötters, Biogeography Department, Faculty of Geography/Geosciences, Trier University, 54286 Trier, Germany.


The worldwide status of the amphibians is alarming and one of the most effective conservation measures will be breeding in zoos and aquariums. In this paper, the situation for Afrotropical amphibians is highlighted. According to the Global Amphibian Assessment (GAA), one-quarter of the c. 1000 described Afrotropical species is threatened with extinction, as is one-quarter of the c. 230 described Madagascan endemics alone. Habitat destruction is the most serious threat in the region, while the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis apparently plays a minor role. However, although known to be present on mainland Africa, this pathogen has not yet been recorded on Madagascar. It could therefore pose a serious threat to the Madagascan amphibian fauna in the future. The International Species Information System (ISIS) lists only about 5% of all Afrotropical amphibians maintained in zoos and aquariums, half of which are Madagascan, with a focus on Mantella frogs. Only 16 of these species are considered to be threatened under the GAA, including 11 Madagascan species. Conservation breeding is currently practiced in a single species only: the Critically Endangered Tanzanian Kihansi spray toad Nectophrynoides asperginis. Using both GAA and ISIS, the number of species identified as threatened is about 15 times higher than the number of species currently maintained in zoos and aquariums. The Madagscan situation is slightly better because one-fifth of the 55 known threatened species is maintained in zoos and aquariums. Considerably more effort must be put into conservation breeding in the Afrotropical region.