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  Conservation Needs Assessment questions and answers

Introduction

In 2006, the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) held an Amphibian Ex Situ Conservation Planning workshop in El Valle, Panama, and during that workshop, a taxon selection and prioritization working group developed a series of questions to select and prioritize which species are most in need of ex situ assistance.

The decision tree has subsequently been further reviewed and refined, and has now been developed into the AArk Conservation Needs Assessment process, which has proven to be a logical, transparent, and repeatable procedure for guiding amphibian conservation activities within a country or region.

Assessors with appropriate expertise answer the following questions for each species of amphibian in a country or region, and the responses to the questions are then used to generate recommended in situ (in the field) or ex situ (in captivity) conservation actions for each species. Scores associated with the answers are used to create a total score for each assessment, which is then used to prioritize species for conservation action in each country or region.

The questions are grouped into seven sections.

Section One – Review of external data

1 Extinction risk
Current IUCN Red List category. [Data obtained from the IUCN Red List.]

The Red List category can be modified accordingly (for the purposes of this assessment only) if new/additional information is available, or if country-level Red List assessments exist. If the assessors consider that the Red List category of threat would change if the species was re-assessed using more current data than that which was used previously, or if a more recent national Red List assessment exists, a revised estimate of the new category can be chosen, and this will be used to calculate priorities and conservation actions.
  Extinct (EX)
A taxon is Extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died. A taxon is presumed Extinct when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form.

Extinct in the Wild (EW)
A taxon is Extinct in the Wild when it is known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalized population (or populations) well outside the past range. A taxon is presumed Extinct in the Wild when exhaustive surveys in known and/or expected habitat, at appropriate times (diurnal, seasonal, annual), throughout its historic range have failed to record an individual. Surveys should be over a time frame appropriate to the taxon’s life cycle and life form.

Critically Endangered (CR)
A taxon is Critically Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Critically Endangered (see Section V), and it is therefore considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

Endangered (EN)
A taxon is Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Endangered (see Section V), and it is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Vulnerable (VU)
A taxon is Vulnerable when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the criteria A to E for Vulnerable (see Section V), and it is therefore considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Near Threatened (NT)
A taxon is Near Threatened when it has been evaluated against the criteria but does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.

Least Concern (LC)
A taxon is Least Concern when it has been evaluated against the criteria and does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened. Widespread and abundant taxa are included in this category.

Data Deficient (DD)
A taxon is Data Deficient when there is inadequate information to make a direct, or indirect, assessment of its risk of extinction based on its distribution and/or population status. A taxon in this category may be well studied, and its biology well known, but appropriate data on abundance and/or distribution are lacking. Data Deficient is therefore not a category of threat. Listing of taxa in this category indicates that more information is required and acknowledges the possibility that future research will show that threatened classification is appropriate. It is important to make positive use of whatever data are available. In many cases great care should be exercised in choosing between DD and a threatened status. If the range of a taxon is suspected to be relatively circumscribed, and a considerable period of time has elapsed since the last record of the taxon, threatened status may well be justified.

Not Evaluated (NE)
A taxon is Not Evaluated when it has not yet been evaluated against the criteria.

Note: If the original Red List category has been revised, a note must be added to support this revision.

2 Possibly extinct
Is there a strong possibility that this species might be extinct in the wild?

If there is a strong possibility that the species might have already gone extinct in the wild, this should be indicated, as it is also likely that the species will be included as a high priority for conservation actions, however, the likelihood of some of these actions (e.g. collection for ex situ rescue or research) is highly unlikely.

  Yes
No

Note: If the answer is Yes, a note should be added to justify this reasoning. Information about possible extinction is used to determine conservation actions, and is not scored.

3 Phylogenetic significance
The taxon’s Evolutionary Distinctiveness (ED) score, as generated by the ZSL EDGE program. (These data are added by AArk staff, and are not editable by Assessors).

Using a scientific framework to identify the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species, the EDGE of Existence program highlights and protects some of the weirdest and most wonderful species on the planet. EDGE species have few close relatives on the tree of life and are often extremely unusual in the way they look, live and behave, as well as in their genetic make-up. They represent a unique and irreplaceable part of the world’s natural heritage, yet an alarmingly large proportion are currently sliding silently towards extinction unnoticed. A higher ED score indicates a more unique species.

Additional information about the EDGE scoring process can be found in the EDGE web site.

  ED value > 100
ED value 50-100
ED value 20 - 50
ED value <20

4 Protected habitat
Is a population of at least 50% of the individuals of the taxon included within a reliably protected area or areas?

Protected habitat is defined as a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. Protected habitat might be within a national system of protected areas or privately-owned land which is actively managed to protect natural biodiversity.

Initial data were extracted from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2008) and the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE, 2010).

  Yes
No
Unknown

 

Note: If the answer is Yes, a note should be added, providing details of the protected habitat(s).

Section Two – Status in the wild

5 Habitat for reintroduction
Does enough suitable habitat exist, either within or outside of currently protected areas that is suitable for reintroduction or translocation?

This question provides information on particular areas of existing habitat that are suitable for reintroduction of captive-bred animals. When prioritizing species for possible ex situ conservation and reintroduction programs, priority should be given to those species that are known to have suitable release habitat available.

  Yes
No
Unknown

Note: If the answer is Yes, a note should be added, providing details of the suitable reintroduction areas.

6 Previous reintroductions
Have reintroduction or translocation attempts been made in the past for this species?

This question does not affect the conservation action(s) assigned to the species, and nor does it affect the scoring. It is included purely to help guide, and to indicate the potential for demonstrable success with future reintroduction or translocation attempts.

  Yes, successfully
Reintroduction or translocation attempts have been made for this species in the past, and post relocation monitoring has shown that the reintroduction or translocation was successful, with animals persisting in the wild.

Yes, but unsuccessfully
Reintroduction or translocation attempts have been made for this species in the past, and post relocation monitoring has shown that the reintroduction or translocation attempts were not successful - the relocated animals did not survive in the wild.

Yes, but outcome is unknown
Reintroduction or translocation attempts have been made for this species in the past, insufficient monitoring has been undertaken to indicate whether the relocated animals survived in the wild.

No
No known attempts have been made to reintroduce or translocate this species in the past.

Note: If the answer is Yes, a note should be added to provide details. Information about previous reintroductions is used to determine conservation actions, and is not scored.

Section Three – Threats and recovery

7 Threat mitigation
Are the threats facing the taxon, including any new and emerging threats not considered in the IUCN Red List, potentially reversible?

It is often helpful to turn each of the answers into questions, and ask each question in turn until the correct answer is obtained, e.g.

  Does the species require conservation action at this time? If not, select answer (a).
  Is the species effectively protected? If it is, select answer (b).
  Are the threats this species is facing known? If not, select answer (c).
  Are the current threats being actively managed? If they are, select answer (d).
  Are the threats this species is facing potentially reversible before the species becomes extinct? If they can, select answer (e).
  Can the threats be reversed in time to prevent the species becoming extinct? If not, select answer (f).
     
  (a) Species does not require conservation action at this time
This species is not currently facing any major threats in the wild, and no conservation action is currently required to safeguard this species in the wild.

(b) Species is effectively protected
All, or the majority of the population of the species in the wild is sufficiently protected to prevent further decline in numbers (e.g. the bulk of the population occurs in protected areas).

(c) Threats unknown
Either no knowledge about the threats to this species exists, or there is so little information known about the distribution of the species in the wild, that the threats cannot be determined.

(d) Threats are being managed - conservation dependant
Without the current management of the threat, the species would disappear in the wild. Examples of this sort of management include actions such as filling temporary ponds each year for breeding, diverting a dam to create a torrent, or harvesting predatory species.

(e) Threats are potentially reversible in a timeframe that will prevent further decline/extinction
The threats to the species can, or will likely be removed or reversed, in a timeframe that will prevent further decline of the species in the wild.

(f) Threats cannot/will not be reversed in time to prevent likely species extinction
The species will very likely go extinct in the wild before anything can or will be done to save it, but in principle the threats to the species could be reversed and the animals in ex situ colonies could be used to re-stock the wild if/when the threats are reversed.

8 Over-collection from the wild
Is the taxon suffering from unsustainable collection within its natural range, either for food, for the pet trade or for any other reason, which threatens the species’ continued persistence in the wild?

  Yes
No
Unknown

Note: If the species is suffering from over-collection, the reason (pet trade, food, etc.) should be included in a note. Information about collection from the wild is used to determine conservation actions, and is not scored.

9 Population recovery
Is the known population of this species in the wild large enough to recover naturally, without ex situ intervention if threats are mitigated?

  Yes
No
Unknown

Note: The size of the population in the wild is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

Section Four – Significance

10 Biological distinctiveness
Does the taxon exhibit, for example, a distinctive reproductive mode, behaviour, aspect of morphology or physiology, within the Class to which the species belongs (Amphibia, Mammalia etc.)?

  Aspect of biology identified that is unique to species - This is the only species in the Class Amphibia which displays this unique aspect of its biology

Aspect of biology shared with <6 other species - There are less than 6 species in the Class Amphibia (including this one) which display this unique aspect of their biology

No aspect of biology known to be exceptional

Note: If the species is identified as being biologically distinct, a note should be included to explain this.

11 Cultural/socio-economic importance
Does the taxon have a special human cultural value (e.g. as a national or regional symbol, in a historic context, featuring in traditional stories) or economic value (e.g. food, traditional medicine, tourism) within its natural range or in a wider global context?

  Yes
No

Note: If the species is identified as being of cultural or socio-economic importance, a note should be included to explain this.

12 Scientific importance
Is the species vital to current or planned research other than species-specific ecology/biology/conservation? (e.g. human medicine, climate change, environmental pollutants and conservation science), within the Class to which the species belongs (Amphibia, Mammalia etc.)?

  Research dependent upon species - This is the only species in the Class Amphibia which could be used for this type of research. 

Research dependent upon <6 species (incl. this taxon) - There are less than 6 species in the Class Amphibia (including this one) which could be used for this type of research

No research dependent on this species

Note: If the species is identified as being of scientific importance, a note should be included to explain this.

Section Five – Ex situ activity

13 Ex situ research
Does conserving this species (or closely related species) in situ depend upon research that can be most easily carried out ex situ?

  Yes
No

Note: Information about ex situ research is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

14 Husbandry analog
Do the biological and ecological attributes of this species make it suitable for developing husbandry regimes for more threatened related species i.e. could this species be used in captivity to help to develop husbandry and breeding protocols which could be used for a similar, but more endangered species at a later stage?

  Yes
No

Notes: Resources for ex situ programs are scarce, and analog species should only be specified for target species that are threatened.

If the species is identified as being a potential husbandry analog, a note should be included which lists the target species for this analog.

Information about husbandry analog species is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

15 Captive breeding
Has this species been successfully maintained and bred in captivity?

  Yes, bred to F2
In this instance, successful captive breeding to F2 refers to animals which were bred and raised to adulthood in captivity, and they have then subsequently reproduced, with these second generation offspring also reaching adulthood. This second generation breeding and rearing to adulthood should be a repeatable event.

Yes, bred to F1
In this instance, captive bred to F1 refers to animals which were both bred and raised to adulthood in captivity. This first generation breeding and rearing to adulthood should be a repeatable event.

Maintained but no successful breeding
Animals have been successfully maintained in captivity for a long enough period of time to show that their husbandry and dietary needs are being met effectively, although the species is yet to regularly reproduce offspring that have reached adulthood.

Not held in captivity to date
Attempts to maintain this species in captivity have not yet been made.

Note: If the species has previously been maintained or bred in captivity, a note should be included providing details of institutions, zoo associations and contact person(s), if known. Information about previous ex situ breeding attempts is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

Section Six – Education

16 Educational potential
Is the species especially diurnal/active/colourful and therefore suited to be an educational ambassador for conservation of this group of species?

  Yes
No

Note: Information about education potential is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

Section Seven – Ex situ Program Authorization/Availability of animals

17 Mandate
Is there an existing conservation mandate recommending the ex situ conservation of this taxon?

  Yes
No

The decision about which species should be protected in ex situ conservation programmes should not be made by the ex situ community alone because such programs must be part of broader plans for species conservation. The ex situ community needs to respond to needs identified by appropriate conservation authorities, especially since the decision to safeguard species in ex situ programs needs to follow from a careful assessment of which species cannot currently be assured of adequate protection in situ. A recommendation for an ex situ population of a threatened species can come from a number of recognised sources, such as:

  An IUCN SSC taxonomic specialist group (e.g. the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG)).
  The IUCN - the IUCN Guidelines on the Use of Ex situ Management for Species Conservation recommends ex situ populations for all Critically Endangered species.
  An IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) workshop process.
  An IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) process.
  A published Species Action Plan.
  A local, regional or national government request.

Notes: Please include details of the recommendation in a note. If the answer is No, there is insufficient authorisation for an ex situ initiative at this time. Seek mandate from the appropriate IUCN taxonomic specialist group or other authority. If the answer is Yes, identify the source of the recommendation.

Information about conservation mandates is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

18 Range State approval
Would a proposed ex situ initiative for this species be supported (and approved) by the range State (either within the range State or out-of-country ex situ)?

  Yes
No

Notes: If the answer is No, there is insufficient authorisation for an ex situ initiative at this time. Seek approval from range country (with help from the appropriate IUCN SSC taxonomic specialist group as required) before proceeding.

Information about range state approval for ex situ programs is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

19 Founder specimens
Are sufficient animals of the taxon available or potentially available (from wild or captive sources) to initiate the specified ex situ program?

It is recommended that a minimum of twenty active breeding pairs of animals be used as founder animals, ideally including several different locations or populations.

  Yes
No
Unknown

Notes: If the answer is No, there are insufficient potential founder specimens to initiate the ex situ program. Evaluate options for alternative conservation strategy including gamete biobanking.

Information about potential founder specimens is used to determine conservation actions and is not scored.

20 Taxonomic status
Has a complete taxonomic analysis of the species in the wild been carried out, to fully understand the functional unit you wish to conserve (i.e. have species limits been determined)?

Typically this unit is a species; however, because species are continuously changing units evolving through time, there are often distinct but not yet unique subunits (evolutionary significant unit or ESU) in the process of divergence within the species and which might warrant independent consideration.

  Yes
No
Unknown

Notes: If the answer is No, there is insufficient knowledge of the species, and a taxonomic study, including phylogenetic analyses of DNA, should be undertaken before considering an ex situ program for the species.

Undertake appropriate research in conjunction with local field biologists (with help from the appropriate IUCN taxonomic specialist group as required) in order to confirm that the specific program encompasses only ONE evolutionary distinct unit (ESU) before proceeding.

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