Click to read: Durrell Wildlife hosts international planning meeting for Mallorcan midwife toad

Durrell Wildlife hosts international planning meeting for Mallorcan midwife toad

A crucial meeting to discuss the future conservation of the Mallorcan midwife toad has taken place at Durrell Wildlife’s international headquarters, Jersey Zoo.  

The meeting was held over three days from the 24th-26th November, and was the first time that the key players in the conservation of this Critically Endangered amphibian have met in Jersey, where the captive breeding programme for the toad was initiated by Durrell Wildlife seventeen years ago.

The meeting was attended by senior government officials from the Mallorcan government, and representatives from several other partner organisations including:-  Barcelona Zoo; Valencia University; Marineland, Mallorca; Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE, based at the University of Kent at Canterbury) and the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Declining Amphibian Populations’ Taskforce.  

Durrell Wildlife first became involved in the fight to save the Mallorcan midwife toad in 1985, when it initiated a captive breeding and re-introduction programme at the request of the Mallorcan government. The first Jersey-bred toads were released into the wild in Mallorca in 1989, and since then there have been several further releases.  Various partner organisations have become involved over the years, and the recovery programme was recently described by Professor Tim Halliday of the IUCN Declining Amphibian Populations’ Taskforce as ‘the most successful amphibian recovery programme worldwide’.  From its discovery in 1977 as a fossil, to the discovery of the first live specimen in 1980, the wild population of this species now numbers in the thousands.

However, in recent years the emergence of deadly amphibian diseases such as Chytridiomycosis or Chytrid fungus (an incredibly virulent disease, recognised as the most lethal known health threat to amphibians worldwide), has meant that the risks associated with introducing captive-bred toads into the wild are growing.  To date the island of Mallorca remains Chytrid-free, but many areas of the world, including mainland Spain, are not.  It is estimated that if Chytrid were to be accidentally introduced into the wild midwife toad population, the species may become extinct in only a year.  Therefore it is vital that the conservation strategy employed for the midwife toad takes this growing hazard into account, and looks at viable alternatives to re-introductions. This, and many other issues were discussed at the recent meeting, and will help in the formulation of a new five-year Action Plan to take the conservation of the midwife toad forward into the twenty-first century.

Commenting on the significance of the meeting, Jersey Zoo Programmes Director Quentin Bloxam said: “Durrell Wildlife has played a key role in the Mallorcan midwife toad recovery programme over the past seventeen years, without which the species would almost certainly be extinct today.  We are delighted to have had the opportunity to host this vitally important meeting of international conservation partners at this crucial stage in the species’ recovery.”

Joan Mayol of the Mallorcan government commented: “This meeting has been decisive for the future of the species, and will allow us to develop a new Recovery Plan with input from all our international partners…The programme reinforces the links between the two
islands, Jersey and Mallorca, which were initiated twenty years ago, and will continue to do so into the future.”

Posted 2 December 2002

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