Thursday, December 22, 2011

Captive Breeding, Biodiversity, and Sustainabiliy

Deep Sea World in North Queensferry, Scotland has annouced they have bred the Golden Mantella, an endemic forest frog from eastern Madagascar, for the firts time. They have about 50 tadpoles that will metamorphose into froglets after about 60 days of development. Mantella aurantiaca is a group of species threatened by habitat fragmentation, it is also an attractive frog, and a prime candidate for zoos, aquariums, and private collectors to use for display. But, the Golden Mantella can also be used to get people's attention about the environment.

Madagascar's herpetofauna is disappearing due to human activity but documenting those extinctions is difficult at best.Species most at risk are those that remain in small populations in fragmented habiat, like small patches of forest that still support frogs, but once those framents of forest are logged, the species are gone, and it is unlikely anyone is going to be their to document it. Surveying habitats for species often miss small, cryptic species - we really have no idea how many species exsist - and we are pushing them into extinction before we even know they exist. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red Lists include
a few dozens of species from Madagascar, but the very rich and unique fauna is poorly known and disappearing before our eyes - but is out of site.

Captive breeding projects, like the one at Deep Sea World, are useful. They provide knowledge that can be used to held species from becoming extinct. However, once the habitat is gone, captive breeding projects can re-establish new populations - or at least that is the thought. But really, long term projects like these are as unstainable as Noah's Ark. Temporarly they can be quite usefull, but it is impossible to save all of the species that humans are pushing into extinction through captive breeding projects. The only real sustainable approach to stop the declines in biodiversity is for humans to slow their reproduction, live sustainably, and stop habitat fragmentation and start habitat restoration - this does not seem likely. Recently the human population is thought to have exceeded 7 billion.

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