||Planning a national
Amphibian Conservation Needs Assessment
One of the key components of the Conservation Needs Assessment process
is to organize for assessments for all amphibian species in a country,
as the first step in the development of a national amphibian
conservation action plan.
Between 2007 and the end of 2014, Amphibian Ark staff facilitated 26
national or regional workshops to
assess the conservation needs of 3,375 (46%) of the world’s amphibian
species. These workshops brought together key stakeholders in amphibian
conservation, primarily the leading amphibian field biologists and
researchers, but also representatives from the ex situ amphibian
conservation community and government wildlife agencies as well as
university students. National IUCN
Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) Chairs
are usually responsible for arranging the workshop and determining the
most appropriate amphibian experts to become
assessors and to make the assessments.
Because funding for physical workshops has become scarce, it was decided
to build an online application to replicate the assessment process. In
late 2014 development began on a new, online assessment program, and all
past assessments have been migrated into the online database.
From 2015 onwards, national conservation needs assessments can now be
undertaken either during a physical workshop or by using the online
program. Assessments from previous workshops can also be reviewed and
updated using the online process. The online program will be used during any future workshop-based assessments, so all new and updated assessments from this point on will be available online.
Advantages and disadvantages of both the workshop and the online method
of assessment are discussed below, along with suggestions for planning
Workshop-based assessments bring together the leading amphibian experts
for the country’s amphibians, along with other relevant stakeholders,
for a multi-day workshop. The length of the workshop depends on the
number of species to be assessed, but on average, 40-60 species can be
assessed each day during a workshop. The workshop ends with the
discussion of recommendations and of the
next steps needed for
implementing those conservation actions.
- All expertise in one place:
Leading experts are all in the same place at the same time, meaning
consensus on differing expertise/knowledge can usually be reached
- Efficient: An assessment
which includes all species in the country can be undertaken in a
relatively short period of time.
- Stakeholders more involved:
Relevant stakeholders are included in the assessments, and are
therefore familiar with the process. Therefore, they have a much
better understanding of how the recommended conservation actions
were developed. Stakeholders who will be responsible for
implementing recommended conservation actions have better “buy-in”,
since they were involved in the decision-making process.
- Room for discussion: Good
opportunity to review the assessments and recommendations as a group
and to discuss the next steps required to implement the conservation
- Costs: Funding is required to
cover the costs of participants’ travel, workshop facilities, food,
accommodation and an experienced assessment facilitator. Although
costs can vary considerably, the average assessment workshop costs
between US$12,000 - US$20,000.
- Funding takes time: It can
take between six months to two years to secure the funding required
to hold a workshop.
- Limit to number of experts
present: generally participation is limited to around 15-20
participants (including stakeholders other than the assessors),
meaning that some experts might not be included during the workshop.
- Hard to pick a date:
Scheduling a suitable time to bring all experts and key stakeholders
together can be difficult, especially if some of those experts spend
considerable time in the field.
Using the online process, assessors generally work in isolation from
each other, and without an experienced facilitator. The combined
assessments from multiple individual assessors are consolidated into a
single set of assessments for each country.
- Can be undertaken at any time:-
assessors are not restricted to a few specific days at a workshop.
- Fits in schedule: Assessors
can complete assessments in their own time, without being taken away
from their daily work routine.
- More inclusive: - a larger
number of assessors can contribute to a national assessment.
- Low costs: Minimal cost when
compared to workshop-based assessments.
- Less focus: Assessors might
not be totally focussed on the task, and therefore, assessing all
species can take considerable time.
- No experienced facilitator:
Absence of an experienced facilitator to address questions or fully
explain aspects of the assessment process.
- Dependent on availability
internet: Access to the internet required to add, update or
- Harder to reach consensus:
Contradictory responses might skew the overall assessment and
recommendation when multiple, differing assessments are
- Bias to certain species: Some
species in a country might not be assessed - assessors may tend to
favour the most threatened species, leaving the most common species
unassessed. This results not only in an incomplete national
assessment, but species that might be recommended for actions such
as ex situ research into husbandry of more threatened species
(i.e. analog species), might not be included in the recommended
- Stakeholders less involved:
Key stakeholders, other than the assessors (e.g. government wildlife
agencies, ex situ conservation community etc.) are not
included in the assessment process and might have less “buy-in” when
it comes to implementing the recommended conservation actions.
- Less group discussion: Less
opportunity to review the completed assessments and recommendations
as a group and to determine the next steps required to implement the
Planning for a workshop-based
Planning for a workshop-based assessment usually includes the following
broad actions. It requires the host to dedicate considerable planning
time, and good communication between the host (usually the ASG Chair(s)),
the Amphibian Ark facilitator, and the participants is required.
- Prepare a draft workshop budget,
based on the number of participants, and the number of species to be
assessed, and including transport costs, accommodation, food,
workshop venue and an experienced facilitator.
- Work with AArk staff to apply for
funding from a range of potential funding bodies.
- Work with AArk staff to prepare
assessment workbooks, including a complete national species list,
along with any national Red List assessment data that might exist.
Send pre-working reading material to all participants.
- Hold the workshop.
- Aim to assess all species during the
workshop, with several hours afterwards for review and planning on
Planning for an online assessment
An online assessment requires considerable planning and monitoring by
the host (usually the ASG Chair(s)). It involves the following
- Determine the list of assessors
required to collectively include expertise in all species in the
- Work with AArk staff to ensure that
the online database includes a complete national species list, and
that any national Red List data have been added to the database.
- Ensure that all assessors have
registered in the online program as assessors.
- Actively encourage assessors to
complete their assessments according to a pre-determined timeframe.
- Encourage assessors to review
species in that country which have been added by other assessors,
and to contact those assessors if they have concerns with their
- Consider a physical or web-based
meeting (such as Skype) once or twice during the assessment
timeframe to help with any questions, keep the momentum going, and
to ensure that no one is falling behind. AArk staff are happy to
join these Skype calls if we can be of help - we have English and
Spanish-speaking facilitators who can help.
- ASG Chair(s) or other national
facilitator reviews and approves all assessments.
- Review species that have not yet
been assessed, and encourage assessors to add data for those
For any further information about
amphibian Conservation Needs Assessments, or for assistance with
planning assessments, please contact Amphibian Ark staff at