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  What happens after the Conservation Needs Assessment?

The Conservation Needs Assessments are a guide for the development of further conservation actions. At the national level, this is most often a National Action Plan for the group of species being assessed (e.g. Amphibians). Conservation practitioners are then able to focus their efforts and resources on the species and environments that are most in need of help, and are likely to benefit the most from those efforts. National action plans generally contain detailed and prioritized conservation actions for both in situ and ex situ programs, and often contain species-level actions for all threatened species.

Some examples of recent national amphibian actions include Madagascar, Bolivia and Panama. The Amphibian Conservation Action Plan provides an excellent framework for developing national action plans.

Before a comprehensive national action plan can be developed, it is important that all species in the Class (e.g. Amphibians) have been assessed or, as an absolute minimum, all species listed as threatened in the IUCN Red List (i.e. Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). Furthermore, it is strongly recommended that all Data Deficient species have been assessed for their conservation needs.

Once these assessments have been reviewed and approved by the National Facilitator (normally the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG) Chairs), the next step is to form a working group of all national stakeholders, to begin the process of either developing a new national amphibian action plan, or updating an existing plan. Stakeholders that should be included in the group are ASG members, leading amphibian field biologists and researchers, representatives from the ex situ amphibian conservation community (zoos, aquariums, and national/regional zoo associations) and government wildlife agencies as well as university students.

The prioritized conservation actions lists and list of assessments for the country should be printed or exported from the assessment program, and circulated to all working group members to ensure they are familiar with the assessment results, and to ensure that all existing expertise was captured.

Ex situ
A National Action Plan consists of both in situ and ex situ conservation programs. First we discuss the steps for implementing a new ex situ program. We strongly suggest that each institution considering implementing a new ex situ program uses AArk’s Program Implementation Tool to ensure that all appropriate resources are in place. A new program should be implemented if and only if all of the critical program aspects can be met for a species. A sufficient number of founder animals (unrelated individuals who help establish a population) must be available to ensure a genetically viable captive population, but unfortunately, this is often over-looked when new programs are established. AArk’s Founder Calculation Tool helps to calculate the number of founders that should be collected, based on the reproductive biology of the species

It is also important to ensure that a complete taxonomic analysis of the species in the wild has been carried out, to fully understand the functional unit you wish to conserve, 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 that might warrant independent consideration. If there is insufficient knowledge of the species, a taxonomic study, including phylogenetic analyses of DNA, should be undertaken before considering an ex situ program for the species. This research should be carried out in conjunction with local field biologists in order to confirm that the specific program encompasses only ONE evolutionary distinct unit (ESU) before proceeding.

If all conditions are met, and a new ex situ conservation program is implemented, then a Taxon Management Group should be established. It is important to ensure within this group appropriate representation from all of the stakeholder groups who have an interest in the species being managed, including the captive breeding community, zoo association amphibian taxon advisory group representatives, field biologists and researchers, and those involved with attempting to mitigate threats in the wild. Forming a management group will ensure that all stakeholders’ needs are met, that expertise is available on all aspects of managing an integrated program, and that the management processes are transparent.

In situ
Recommendations generated from the assessments for in situ conservation actions include in situ research (for species where one or more critical pieces of information is not known at this time) and in situ conservation (for species for which mitigation of threats in the wild may still bring about its successful conservation).

In many countries the ASG takes a leading role in amphibian conservation actions, especially with in situ activities.

The One Plan Approach
The One Plan approach to species conservation recommended by the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) is the development of management strategies and conservation actions by all responsible parties for all populations of a species, whether inside or outside their natural range.

Traditionally, species conservation planning has followed two parallel but separate tracks. Field biologists, wildlife managers, and conservationists monitor wild populations and develop conservation strategies and actions to conserve threatened species. Meanwhile, the zoo and aquarium community develops long-term goals for sustaining ex situ populations.

CBSG supports an integrated approach to species conservation planning through the joint development of management strategies and conservation actions by all responsible parties. As a result, one comprehensive conservation plan for the species helps bridge the gap between wild and captive population management.
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