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Happy Harlequin Christmas!

This is just a short note to say a big thanks to all the people supporting our conservation work through our new Sponsor a Harlequin Frog initiative! As Christmas is fast approaching we are getting an increasing number of people wanting to show their support whilst also giving this unique sponsorship opportunity to their loved ones. It’s an unusual thoughtful gift, and the support for the conservation project is very much appreciated!

For those who would still like to do so but just haven’t gotten round to it yet, just to let you know our last date for Frog Sponsorship package gifts being sent out is 17th December! A special letter of thanks together with the gift pack will be sent out directly to your person of your choice.

Museum Selection – Harlequin baubles

Harlequin Frog Sponsorship is £50, and also includes a lovely book on Frogs and Toads of the World by Chris Mattison, and the opportunity for an exclusive behind the scenes Museum vivarium visit where you and a friend will get to see our Harlequin Frogs, Atelopus varius, as well as all our other wonderful species up close.




Salamanders get Frozen 2

Many species of salamander survive at temperatures below freezing, including one from Siberia which is known for surviving deep freezes as low as −45 °C. That is seriously cold! In some cases, they have been known to remain frozen in permafrost for years, and upon thawing, simply walking off – slowly 🙂 Western and central European Fire Salamanders remain active even at temperatures as low as 1 °C, as Kasia here can testify to recently.

These cold blooded amphibians are masters at survival and have developed many adaptations to stay alive. All species secrete toxins over their skin that are poisonous to some extent if ingested. Some of the poisons possess tetrodotoxin, one of the most potent toxins known to science and more toxic than found in most poison-dart frogs. The toxicity varies depending on the species and the juveniles of many salamanders have toxins in their skin more potent than when they are adult. Interestingly, both temperature tolerance and skin toxicity in salamanders can also vary within the same species, depending on which population they come from. Fire Salamanders, Salamandra salamandra, are found in most of southern and central Europe, most commonly at altitudes between 250 and 1,000 metres.

Here’s a related clip for Sylvia and our younger followers..






Amphibian Foundation’s new Educational Program

As one of the scientific advisors of The Amphibian Foundation, based in Atlanta, Georgia, I am pleased to announce that they will soon provide an opportunity for those interested in pursuing a career in herpetology to participate in a new amphibian conservation research learning program – based outside of the classroom.

Established in 2016, for many years the Amphibian Foundation has been collaborating with partners to address the amphibian extinction crisis, for example their staff have been releasing captive-reared Gopher Frogs (Lithobates capito), Georgia’s rarest frog, into protected local habitats for more than 10 years.

Now, the Amphibian Foundation is launching its new Bridge Program, and from the beginning of January 2020 their scientific experts will mentor participants in the US through lab and field projects at their globally-recognized amphibian conservation centre based in Atlanta. All research projects will contribute to the conservation of threatened and endangered amphibians and participants will gain unique skills in biological research to help address the conservation needs of several endangered species.

The program offers two learning opportunities, both based on participant availability and their specific interests: The one-semester program combines common biological research topics, including restoration conservation, urban ecology, animal husbandry, and more;

The one-year program begins with the common biological topics followed by each participant designing and implementing a personal project with mentorship. Experienced Amphibian Foundation staff will work closely with participants in both programs to help them achieve personal and academic goals that will aim to support their future career.

Similar to a “gap year,” the program is available for people before, during, or after college, and graduates will leave with an understanding of how best to harness their passion for preserving wildlife.

More information on the program


Costa Rican Frog call app launched

You often hear frogs before you see them, if you see them at all! Each species of frog sounds different – some croak, some chirp, some even bark. Some sound like insects and others like birds! Just like people learn bird calls you can use this app to help you learn, record and analyse frog calls either for personal fun so that you can identify them or so that you can help with amphibian surveys.

This new app gives you useful information to help identify and learn 10 tropical frogs and their calls. There are genuine wild frog calls on the app that you can play back to learn their calls along with information on each frog species. The species on the app are ones you might see on the trails of La Selva Biological Station (Costa Rica), in other areas of Costa Rica and in many other parts of Central America.

You can also record your own frog calls using the microphone on your phone and create your own call library on your phone.

CROAC can also help you identify the frogs you can hear by analysing and identify the frog calls for you by only using your phone! It will give you some suggestions as to what the species might be in your recording.


Event thanks!

I would like to thank everyone who helped make last night’s Rhino conservation event such a success – We have had some amazing feedback and are so pleased that everyone enjoyed the evening to such an extent. Thank you to all the people who attended, our Manchester Metropolitan University colleagues who contributed greatly,  all who represented the many conservation organisations to help raise awareness of the plight of these incredible animals, our wonderfully enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers, and our fantastic Kizomba dance teachers Abi and Tony. I would also very much like to thank all our museum staff who did a great job in supported the evening, without whom the event could not have taken place. Thank you all so much!


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(c) Luis Urena Photography


This Thursdays ‘Don’t let me go’ conservation evening proposes to be a wonderful night for all. Its a totally free event that starts promptly at 6pm with some wonderful presentations. Also joining us for the evening we have Abigail and Tony from Kizomba Noroeste, who will be providing some fabulous dance moves and introducing the African beat of Kizomba to all!


Lightening talks added to event!

This coming Thursday’s ‘Don’t let me go‘ rhino conservation evening is looking like its going to be an amazing night and one not to be missed! Music and dance is on the cards and during the evening (from 7pm) we also have lightening talks by Manchester PhD students and public debates planned. From 8pm Daryl Lott will also be speaking and representing Rhino 911. Daryl has been to South Africa to carry out rhino research, behavioural studies, anti-poaching protection work and also horn trimming.

Daryl’s passion for rhino conservation has grown thanks to him sharing time with the inspiring individuals that dedicate there lives conserving them. He hopes he can do the same through the sharing of knowledge gained and encouraging others to take action. Daryl will also be discussing the anti-poaching methods of Rhino dehorning and the active work of the conservation team Rhino 911. He says “Rhino poaching is currently at its worst – they need our help, there is no doubt about that. The thought that our children may not know of a wild rhino is nothing short of a tragedy”.

Rhino 911 provide emergency helicopter rescue to Rhinos injured or orphaned due to poaching and other injuries. They have responded to over 140 calls for help since their inception. They use every availble resource to ensure rhinos do not fade away into a memory, like so many other animals that have become extinct.


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Summaries of Lightening talks by Manchester PhD students and public debates planned for the ‘Don’t let me go‘ event:

7pm: Franziska Elsner Gearing, PhD student, University of Manchester. Talk title: Using genetics to manage Critically Endangered Eastern Black rhinos.
With only 740 Eastern black rhino estimated to remain in Africa, the ex-situ population of around 100 animals in European zoos can play an important role in the restoration of the species. But where did they come from? What genetic diversity has been preserved? And how might their novel ex-situ environment have affected these animals across generations? These are the questions Franziska and team set out to answer using genetic analyses and to use the results in planning the future management of their Eastern black rhinos.

7.20: Sarah Scott, PhD student at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Talk Title: Applying knowledge of white rhinoceros social behaviour to their conservation management
Rhinoceros species worldwide are threatened with extinction due to the ongoing threat from illegal poaching. Consequently, they require intensive monitoring and management to remain viable. White rhinoceros have a very well developed communication system, and are the most social of the five rhinoceros species. Incorporating knowledge of white rhinoceros social behaviour into management strategies could therefore help to improve their success. This talk will explore white rhinoceros grouping patterns in the wild, and the potential role of social behaviour in their breeding success and conservation management.

7.40: Joana Borges, PhD student at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Talk Title: Black Rhino’s of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) was designated as  UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its natural and cultural values. It attracts thousands of tourists and is one of the best places to see  black rhinos in the wild. Due to an intense period of poaching in the 70s and 80s, the black rhino population in the NCA dropped from 110 to only 13 individuals in 1993. Nowadays, despite the absence of poaching, population numbers are still lower than expected. A combination of factors, such as habitat changes, genetic constraints and human presence could explain this. My research is currently focusing on the vegetation changes (including spread of invasive plants) and how they affect black rhino diets and carrying capacity in the NCA. I will also be using genetic tools to confirm population numbers, paternity and levels of inbreeding.