Secret locations, boiler suits and health checks...

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... welcome to the intriguing, but extremely important world of amphibian conservation!

Examining a pool frogAmphibians are facing a global extinction crisis, but you may not know that we’re losing species on our very own doorstep.  One example is the pool frog, which disappeared from English ponds in the 1990s.

We were asked to take part in a collaborative project with Natural England and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to reintroduce pool frogs back into England.
Reintroducing a frog that used to live here may seem fairly straight-forward, but in fact there are many hoops to go through before you can let them hop off into the sunset.  The pool frogs for this project came from Swedish populations, so one of the major risks was the introduction of a foreign disease.

Wildlife disease is one of the main areas of research here at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, so we were charged with providing Natural England with a rigorous review of all the disease risks associated with reintroducing the frogs, and screening the individual frogs intended for release.
In 2005 permission was granted to commence the reintroduction and so on a warm summer’s day that year we drove to a secret location in the east of England to examine the first frogs for reintroduction.

Toad ultrasoundThis is definitely not a job for the fashion-conscious, as strict biosecurity measures mean that we were dressed head-to-toe in white boiler suits, wellington boots and gloves!

Over a 3 year reintroduction period and through subsequent post-release health monitoring we carried out regular health checks on the pool frogs and I am pleased to say that they are thriving in their new home.
This spring we’re revisiting the reintroduction sites to do health checks on all the native amphibians to find out whether they’ve been impacted by their new neighbours.

Stay tuned for my next post on how to health check a common frog

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