A University of Wolverhampton researcher is part of a team undertaking vital conservation work to protect amphibians at risk in the Seychelles.
Dr Simon Maddock, from the Faculty of Science and Engineering, is among a group of experts who are identifying the key threats to Seychelles amphibians and developing a strategy to ensure the survival of all species.
Globally, amphibians are among the most threatened vertebrate group, with 42 per cent of species at risk of extinction.
Dr Maddock, a reptile and amphibian expert who lectures in Conservation Genetics, said that globally, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and disease were all factors in their decline, but one disease in particular, known as chytrid, was responsible for multiple amphibian population declines.
He said the disease had not been recorded in the Seychelles but three recent separate mortality events on the islands had raised concerns that chytrid or another introduced disease had now reached its unique ecosystems, and could be responsible.
Following from successful conservation activities supported by the Darwin Initiative, and with in-country project partners including the Seychelles National Parks Authority, Seychelles Department of Environment, Seychelles Islands Foundation, and Island Conservation Society, amphibian-focussed work in Seychelles is continuing.
Dr Maddock and Dr Jim Labisko (UCL/University of Kent) recently helped organise a workshop to showcase the Seychelles’ native species of sooglossid frog, six caecilians, single treefrog, and their threats, with a particular focus on disease, at the University of Seychelles, a key partner in ongoing conservation activities across the islands.
He said: “Considering the global importance of Seychelles’ amphibians, along with the recently observed mortality events, and the elevated threat posed by disease, an emergency response and effective strategy are required.
“The extinction of any Seychelles amphibian would be a major loss to global biodiversity.”
Sooglossid frogs and caecilians have evolved in isolation in the Seychelles for the past 64 million years; and its treefrogs’ ancestors were rafted from Madagascar 11 million years ago. The other amphibian found in Seychelles is the Mascarene frog, which are not an endemic species, having been introduced by people following human colonisation of the islands.
Seychelles is one of only two countries where amphibians occur that chytrid has not been detected; the other is Papua New Guinea. Dr Maddock said due to the long isolation of the Seychelles amphibians from their closest relatives, chytrid or another disease could be catastrophic to them and it is therefore important to monitor them closely for any signs of infection so that suitable conservation measures can be put in place.