Amphibian conservation, like all conservation actions requires a positive change in human behavior to succeed. This behavioral change begins by educating those that are most likely to affect the species and ultimately the habitat that we strive to conserve.
Since 2012, we have been trying to help conserve the endangered frogs of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and their habitats with help from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund and local institutions on the island, like Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic and Société Audubon Haiti. One of the main components of our work is to educate and build capacity of key actors in amphibian conservation on Haiti and the Dominican Republic at all levels. As such, we have concentrated our efforts in the past few months to conduct several capacity-building workshops and training events geared specifically towards creating greater awareness of the amphibian biodiversity crisis. In our workshops, we’ve helped train and educate local villagers and their children that live in or near the protected areas where endangered frogs are found, university students and interested citizens that are actively trying to help conserve amphibians, and key private and government stakeholders that are managing the forests.
One of our workshops was a one-on-one training sessions on how to monitor amphibians in the region of Loma del Toro in Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. This site is one of our most important amphibian monitoring sites as it is one of the last pine forest strongholds on the south part of the Dominican Republic. It is home to the highest mountains of the region—with several peaks towering over 7,500 feet above sea level—and harbors several endemic plant, bird and amphibian species and is the source of drinking water to many cities in the south. Rangers and staff from local organizations are patrolling the sites within the protected areas and working with the government to stop these illegal practices.
Loma del Toro in Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic lies just above an area that is under an immense threat of being completely wiped out by illegal cash crop plantations run by landlords living in urban areas on cities far from this site.
During the training workshop we taught several field survey techniques including how to finding frogs, how to handle frogs safely, proper identification techniques, how to take body measurements and habitat assessment to determine the size and status of a frog population and how to monitor frog s for signs of the lethal amphibian chytrid fungus.
Regional staff from Grupo Jaragua (Gerson Feliz, José Luis Castillo and Esteban Garrido) received a first on a series of one-on-one training at the Amphibian Conservation and Monitoring training.
We also held several Multidisciplinary Amphibian Conservation Workshops at different localities within our field sites at Sierra de Bahoruco in the Dominican Republic. At least 20 members of the local communities of Cachote and Paraíso (two communities located inside the protected area) and members from local organizations were trained on basic amphibian conservation practices and learned about the importance of amphibian diversity and conservation. Two other similar workshops were carried at the localities of Puerto Escondido and Zapotén, also located within the boundaries of Sierra de Bahoruco. At least 40 members of these local communities along with park guards and staff from the Ministry of the Environment, the local conservation group Brigada Quisqueya Verde and Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola, were trained on these additional workshops.
A selected team of participants from this group also visited two of our field sites at Puerto Escondido and Zapotén and received one-on-one training sessions on how to monitor amphibians in the region. Techniques included finding frogs, safe handling, proper identification techniques, measurements and habitat assessment and how to monitor for the Bd fungus in frogs.
Members of the local communities of Cachote and Paraíso, located inside the Monumento Natural Padre Domingo Fuertes in the Bahoruco Oriental protected area listen to our talks and participate on our amphibian conservation workshops.
Adults and children from Cachote participate on our frog searching exercise, where we teach them about our field practices and also about the endemic Bahoruco hammer frog.
Lastly, we held a half-day workshop on amphibian conservation for the regional offices of the Ministry of the Environment in the city of Barahona, located in the south of the Dominican Republic. This is one of the cities that directly benefits from a healthy Sierra de Bahoruco, as much of its water, agriculture and local livelihood depends on the wellbeing of this mountain range. At this workshop, the leaders from the regional offices from the Ministry of the Environment got a first glimpse of the immense threat to the amphibian diversity in their region and what that means for the rest of the biodiversity and natural resources.