Involving local communities in amphibian conservation: Taipei frog Rana taipehensis as an example



Farmland is an important habitat for many amphibians. However, the widespread and prolonged use of agro-chemicals creates predictable difficulties and limitations for the conservation of agrobiodiversity. Farmland is an ecosystem in which human forces are greatly involved; therefore, conservation of natural resources in agricultural ecosystems must also relate to the existence of humans in order to achieve its goal. The Taipei frog Rana taipehensis has become a seriously threatened species in Taiwan because of wetland destruction and extensive use of agro-chemicals on farmland. Nowadays, the species can only be found in Taipei, Taoyuan, Tainan and Pingtung Counties. Since 1999, Taipei Zoo has been surveying the distribution of Taipei frogs in Sanzhi, a small town in northern Taiwan. Taipei Zoo has adopted a two-pronged approach to its conservation project. Aside from collecting ecological data on Taipei frog populations, we also cooperated with a local school and the Tse-Xing Organic Agriculture Foundation (TXOAF) to carry out habitat-improvement work and community-education programmes about wetland conservation. We persuaded and assisted a farmer to halt his use of pesticides and eventually adopt organic-farming practices because his farm was located right in the centre of the Taipei frog's breeding habitat and our sampling area. We also helped the farmer to sell his organically grown water lilies to TXOAF in order to provide a long-term and stable income. From October 2002, the farmer stopped using agro-chemicals on his fields. Beginning in 2003, when the population of Taipei frogs was apparently increasing, the farmer also became a follower of an organic lifestyle and is proud of the Taipei frogs on his land.