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Increasing zoo’s conservation potential through understanding barriers to holding globally threatened amphibians

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The global amphibian crisis and current un-mitigatable threats make ex situ programmes a crucial complementary action for the conservation of many amphibians. Zoos and aquariums are some of the most important and influential groups of institutions to undertake this yet the proportion of globally threatened amphibians in zoos is just 23.9% compared to over 40% in the wild. To identify key barriers to holding globally threatened amphibian species in ex situ collections, as well as potential strategies to mitigate such barriers, we surveyed amphibian curators across 107 institutions worldwide. A lack of resources (including budget, staffing and space) was perceived as the most significant barrier (87% of respondents) and the barrier most frequently identified (119 responses), followed by disease/biosecurity concerns (31 responses), and a lack of staff expertise/knowledge (30 responses). Difficulty displaying amphibians due to cryptic behaviour or colouration (65% or respondents) and difficulty attracting visitor interest (60% of respondents) were seen as insignificant barriers. Nine key priority action areas were identified, with increasing interest from zoo leadership and budget allocation identified as the most important (49% of suggested solutions). Increasing visitor interest in amphibians to encourage increased investment and engaging with range country facilities were highlighted as two ways to address barriers. Careful collection planning considering both the need and suitability of a species for captive breeding is also key, whilst critically assessing the role each species will play in a collection will enable a better assessment of the collection’s conservation value rather than using global threat status alone.

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We would like to thank everyone who responded to the questionnaire or took the time to take part in follow-up interviews. Further thanks to Kevin Johnson, Dianne Barber and Amy Hall for assistance with identifying contacts and to Benjamin Tapley for pre-submission feedback and comments.

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Correspondence to Jeff Dawson.

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Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Ex-situ conservation.

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Brady, L., Young, R.P., Goetz, M. et al. Increasing zoo’s conservation potential through understanding barriers to holding globally threatened amphibians. Biodivers Conserv 26, 2735–2749 (2017).

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