Common frog

The Ecology Consultancy partners with the Institute of Zoology for amphibian disease monitoring research

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

We have teamed up with the Institute of Zoology to carry out valuable monitoring research into the potential spread of a disease that can wipe out entire amphibian populations.

The Institute of Zoology (IoZ) forms part of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which runs London Zoo and Whipsnade, and undertakes important and world-renowned conservation research and action across the globe.

The Ecology Consultancy are supporting IoZ with their monitoring of the potential spread of an amphibian disease known as ‘chytrid’, which is lethal to amphibians (but causes no harm to humans) and can quickly wipe out whole amphibian populations.

As part of the monitoring, we are taking swabs of live, apparently healthy newts at strategic locations throughout England. The swabs are then sent to IoZ for analysis as an early warning system, in order to guarantee swift and targeted action should the presence of chytrid be confirmed. We are also sending swabs of any newts we encounter during the course of our surveys that show any signs of disease.

There are two strains of the disease that IoZ are looking for:

  • Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) which can affect newts and salamanders as well as frogs and toads.
  • Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) which has so far only been found to affect newts and salamanders.

Both strains have previously been recorded in the UK, but Bsal appears to be more lethal and its presence is therefore of greater concern. ‘Salamandrivorans’ translates as ‘salamander eating’, and the disease has led to a 96% decline in fire salamanders in the Netherlands, between 2010 and 2013.

What can be done to prevent its spread?

It is thought likely that both diseases are being spread by the pet trade whereby pet amphibians carrying the disease are released or escape into the wild, or the containers or contents of their containers are disposed of without appropriate cleaning and other control measures. It is important that owners of pet amphibians are aware of the issue and thoroughly disinfect anything before disposing of it, ensure any containers used to transport or house amphibians are not escapable, and never releasing amphibians into the wild.

The Ecology Consultancy follows a strict biosecurity procedure when undertaking field surveys, disinfecting our boots and equipment between every site where we have been in contact with ponds. The public can follow similar precautions, firstly by avoiding entering ponds and streams in the first place, but when they do, ensuring they are thoroughly cleaned before entering any other ponds and streams.

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