Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Asia. Show all posts

Friday, August 19, 2011

Researchers Complete First Major Survey of Amphibian Fungus in Asia

Rana similis, a frog species found in the Philippines.
The survey conducted by Vance Vredenburg and
colleagues found that this species has one of the
highest infection levels of the chytrid fungus in Asia
 and is potentially threatened by the disease. Photo
Credit: R. Brown, University of Kansas.

An international team of researchers has completed the first major survey in Asia of a deadly fungus that has wiped out more than 200 species of amphibians worldwide. The massive survey could help scientists zero in on why the fungus has been unusually devastating in many parts of the globe -- and why Asian amphibians have so far been spared the same dramatic declines.

The disease chytridiomycosis, caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd, is the culprit behind amphibian extinctions in Central, South and North America, Australia and Europe. The new Asian survey of the fungus, which was published Aug. 16 in the journal PLoS One, shows that Bd is prevalent at very low levels in the region.

Asia is home to a highly diverse set of amphibian species, and potentially could be vulnerable to Bd. But Vance Vredenburg, assistant professor of biology, said very little is known about the fungus and its impact on the health of amphibians in Asia.

"That's why we're excited about this first really big survey," said Vredenburg, who led the research team. "If you look at chytrid worldwide, Asia's been the black hole in our data."

From 2001 to 2009, Vredenburg and his colleagues surveyed more than 3,000 amphibians -- mostly frogs -- from 15 Asian countries, swabbing the toe webbing, thigh and abdomen of the animals to pick up any signs of Bd, which infects the skin of amphibians.

They found that the prevalence of Bd was very low throughout the region, appearing in only 2.35 percent of the frogs. The Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea were the only countries with any Bd infection.

The survey suggests that Bd is either emerging in Asia, or may have been in Asia at low levels for a long time or that some other factor is preventing Bd "from fully invading Asian amphibians," the researchers write.

Each site in the study was only surveyed once, Vredenburg explained, so it's difficult to determine whether Bd infections in the countries are newly expanding. It will be critical, he said, "to see how Bd prevalence is changing through time, because this is key to understanding the ultimate outcome of the disease."

If Bd has been in Asia for a long time, researchers would like to know why amphibians there have managed to co-exist with a fungus that has proved so destructive elsewhere. It is possible, for instance, that Asian amphibians might bear some sort of bacterial protection against Bd in their skins.

Other scientists are analyzing the genes of the Bd fungus collected globally, Vredenburg said, "to find out whether strains from different parts of the world also differ in their virulence."

Vredenburg said the possibility of another wave of extinctions highlights the need to follow the Asian survey with further research to answer all of these questions.

And if Asia is on the brink of a chytrid epidemic, Vredenburg and colleagues think it might start in the Philippines. "The prevalence and intensity of Bd infection is much higher here than anywhere else in Asia," he said. "Bd in the Philippines today looks similar to Bd in early outbreaks in California and South and Central America."

"This study is the first important step to understanding Bd in Asia," Vredenburg said. "It provides a solid foundation that future studies can build upon."

Link to Original Article: Swei A,  et al. (2011) Is Chytridiomycosis an Emerging Infectious Disease in Asia? PLoS ONE 6(8): e23179. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023179

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Future of Asian Snakes

Oriental Rat Snakes are a species of conservation 
concern because of unregulated trade.  © Mark 
Auliya/TRAFFIC  Southeast Asia
The Future of Asian Snakes is a press release from TRAFFIC, dated 12 April 2011

Guangzhou, China, 12th April 2011—A crucial meeting that could decide the future of Asia’s traded snake species takes place this week in Guangzhou, China.

Some 60 experts representing close to 20 governments and international and national organizations are meeting to consider conservation priorities and management and enforcement needs related to the trade of snakes.

They will focus on the markets and commercial trade in snakes originating in East, South, and South-east Asia.

Asian snakes are consumed locally and in neighbouring countries for food, traditional medicines and for their skins. They are also sold as pets and found in expensive luxury leather goods and accessories in the boutiques of Europe and North America. Their skins are often processed in various countries of re-export along the way.

According to a wildlife trade policy review conducted in Viet Nam, the income from snake breeding is three to five times higher than the income generated by vegetable and crop cultivation, and dozens of times higher than the income from pig and cattle breeding.

TRAFFIC has previously raised concern over the international exports of Oriental Rat Snakes Ptyas mucosus from Indonesia, after investigations revealed large numbers were harvested and traded outside of existing government regulations.

TRAFFIC found government-set quotas were being widely-flouted, leading to over-harvesting and illegal trade; and with no marking of skins taking place, it was impossible to track them through the trade chain to point of export.

“TRAFFIC welcomes the current spotlight on the international trade in Asian snakes, which is placing many species on the conservation danger list,” said Dr William Schaedla, Director of TRAFFIC South-east Asia.
“Snakes are clearly vital to natural ecosystems and to the economy of the region—it is in Asia’s interests to ensure snakes have a sustainable future.”

The global trade in snakes involves snake species from many different countries, with specimens taken from the wild or bred in captivity.

However, populations of some snakes have declined significantly through a combination of unsustainable use and habitat loss.

Of the 3,315 snake species globally recognized, one third occur in Asia, many of them endemic to particular countries: Indonesia has 128 endemic snake species, India 112, China 54, Papua New Guinea 42, Sri Lanka 41, and the Philippines 32.

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) regulates international trade in 130 snake species, 45 of them found in range States in the Asian countries attending the workshop.

John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, stated: “the global trade in snakes is an industry of considerable socio-economic importance for rural populations in several Asian countries.

"CITES is the main international tool to regulate effectively international snake trade in many of these species.

“The recommendations coming out of this meeting will be critical in addressing the wildlife conservation, sustainable use and livelihood aspects of such trade, and putting forward expert recommendations to CITES governing bodies for future directions.”

The technical workshop runs until 14th April under the leadership of CITES and brings together government experts, members of the CITES Animals Committee and organizations including IUCN and several of its Species Survival Commission specialist groups, TRAFFIC, WCS, UNCTAD-BioTrade, the China Wildlife Conservation Association and China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine.