Expert training aids conservation of endangered species


Focusing on the tiny sooglossid frogs, and their larger tree-frog cousins, the first workshop – in a series of eight – will combine classroom-based theory sessions at the University of Seychelles with hands-on practical exercises at Morne Blanc and Casse Dent.

The three-day workshops are being run under the Darwin Initiative-Seychelles EDGE project, an initiative of the Zoological Society of London, which identifies species worldwide that are most in need of conserving based on their evolutionary uniqueness and threat status.

Titled “A cutting-EDGE approach to saving Seychelles’ evolutionarily distinct biodiversity,” the project is being run from 2012 to 2015 and has been awarded £256,000 (approximately SR4,600,000) by the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the Darwin Initiative.

It aims to provide expert training to develop the capacity of conservation personnel in the methods and techniques for conserving very threatened wildlife and help to improve knowledge, management and conservation of Seychelles’ 12 EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) species.

The frog workshop is being led by Professor Richard Griffiths from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), University of Kent and assisted by Jim Labisko from DICE, who also leads Seychelles Islands Foundation’s (SIF) sooglossid research at the Vallée de Mai, and Simon Maddock from the Natural History Museum, London.

After delivering a series of presentations on the biology, life history, threats and conservation of frogs in general, then specifically Seychelles’ sooglossid frogs, the team will discuss with the participants current research and carry out a capture-mark-recapture exercise.

The field visits will provide training on how to identify the different frog species by calls and appearance, as well as demonstrating sooglossid and tree frog survey methods.
Participants in the workshop include staff from government, non-government and parastatal conservation organisations, as well as students from the University of Seychelles.

The next Darwin-EDGE training workshop will focus on the Seychelles sheath-tailed bat (Sousouri bannan) and will be conducted next week.
EDGE species have few close relatives on the tree of life and are often extremely unusual in the way they look, live and behave, as well as in their genetic make-up. They represent a unique and irreplaceable part of the world’s natural heritage.

Seychelles is home to an unusually high concentration of 12 currently recognised EDGE species;  Seychelles sheath-tailed bat Coleuraseychellensis; Seychelles black parrot Coracopsisbarklyi;   four Sooglossid frogs species  (Sooglossussechellensis; Sooglossusthomasseti, Sooglossusgardineri, Sooglossuspipilodryas);  Cooper’s black  caecilian Praslinacooperi;  and five coral species (Crisp pillow coral Anomastraeairegularis, Horastrea coral Horastreaindica, Parasimplastres coral Parasimplastreasheppardi,  Elegance coral Catalaphylliajardinei, Pearl bubble coral Physogyralichensteini).

This project is a partnership of UK organisations with specialist expertise in conserving these taxa, and local organisations tasked with the management of these species. The project provides intensive specialist training and support to Seychellois biologists based at the Department of Environment, Seychelles Islands Foundation, Seychelles National Parks Authority, Seychelles Natural History Museum and Island Conservation Society.

Seychelles project partners are the Ministry of Environment and Energy; Seychelles Islands Foundation; Seychelles National Parks Authority; Natural History Museum of Seychelles; Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles; and Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles.

UK project partners are: DICE-University of Kent (project leader); Zoological Society of London-EDGE of existence programme; Natural History Museum/University College London consortium; and an independent bat expert.

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