A newly-discovered species of chytrid fungus which can infect and kill a wide range of newts and salamanders has been found in captive UK populations for the first time by scientists from the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL’s) Institute of Zoology.
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (B.sal) has become established in a few wild amphibian populations in parts of Europe where it is causing devastating population declines. It is thought to be spread internationally by the amphibian trade.
ZSL is now urging all concerned, including people who have pet amphibians, amphibian keepers, pet traders and scientists, to take great care and take simple measures to prevent this new strain from spreading to wild amphibian populations. Species at risk in the wild include the endangered great crested newt, which studies have shown is highly susceptible to the pathogen.
ZSL has worked with a wide group of partners* to create guidelines for reducing the risk of inadvertently spreading amphibian diseases within or between captive collections, and also to wild populations. These include:
- Never release any (native or exotic) amphibians from captivity into the wild.
- Never transfer wild amphibians between sites. Do not stock ponds with spawn/tadpoles/adult amphibians – they will colonise new ponds naturally (and often surprisingly quickly).
- Know the health status of your collection. Get your animals tested routinely and ensure any dead amphibians are submitted for post mortem examination.
- Take care when disposing of dead animals.
- Avoid keeping amphibians in outdoor enclosures as they may come into contact with native wild amphibians and infect them with disease agents (even if the captive animals appear healthy).
- Do not clean tanks or vivaria outside where there is a possibility of contaminating areas used by wild animals.
- Disinfect all waste water from amphibian enclosures.
- Substrates (soil, sand, gravel, etc.) can harbour infections and should be discarded carefully. Ideally these should be sent for incineration by a registered company that can dispose of clinical waste (eg those used by veterinary practices). If this is not possible, disinfect and dispose with the household refuse for collection by your local council.
If you have pet amphibians, or know others who do, please familiarise yourself with these guidelines and share them to raise awareness. The full guidelines are available on the Garden Wildlife Health website.
Partners involved with creating the guidelines are as follows: British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Reptile and Amphibian Working Group,Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Animal Plant Health Agency, Caudata.org, Reptile and Exotic Pet Trade Association and the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association.