Are zoo populations of golden mantellas fit for release to the wild?

Reintroductions play an important role in the conservation of endangered amphibian species.

The reintroduction of endangered species into their natural habitat has sometimes proved difficult. For this study various indicators of species fitness from five different populations of golden mantella, a critically endangered frog from Madagascar, were compared to evaluate the optimum fitness as to when the species should be reintroduced into the wild. Some differences were found between the populations regarding characteristics therefore increasing our understanding of where conditions can be enhanced even further to make more informed decisions for future in-situ generations of golden mantella; and improving the success of conservation efforts. 

Project detail

Zoo populations are playing an increasingly vital role in conservation, especially in amphibians as the in-zoo breeding of species makes reintroductions an important conservation technique. The research involves measuring the characteristics of golden mantellas at the zoo and comparing these to the information gathered in the field in Madagascar. The aim is to increase our understanding of where conditions can be enhanced even further to ensure optimal fitness for future in-situ generations of golden mantella and increase the success of reintroduction programmes.

Indicators of species fitness, including vocal calls, skin colouration, body conditioning, presence of skin microbiota and tonic immobility were tested using samples from five distinct populations of golden mantella; Chester Zoo’s collection, founders collected from the wild and their offspring, wild frogs from the Mangabe region and two groups from the Mitsinjo breeding association. Differences in body condition, skin colouration and tonic immobility have been noted between the five populations.

Once all the data is analysed we will have a better understanding of the species’ fitness and how variations in characteristics may impact them in the wild. Knowing this information can help us make more informed decisions and improve the success of reintroductions in the future.

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Key Facts

Golden mantellas are a critically endangered frog from Madagascar
Zoo and wild populations do show differences in factors such as skin colouration and body condition
Knowing the differences can help us make better decisions when releasing animals back in to the wild

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