Synchronicity Earth was founded to support the most overlooked and underfunded of conservation issues in the world. The amphibians, even as they experience a global extinction crisis on a scale unseen in any other vertebrate group, continue to receive far too little conservation action or funding to meet the scale of the challenge.
All around the world, the evening chorus of amphibians, the trilling and croaking and whirring, as central to landscapes as the dawn chorus of the birds, is falling silent.
Approximately 40 per cent of amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction, and many of them are declining at a precipitous rate. In these vanishing amphibians, the world is losing unique, beautiful, and fascinating branches of the tree of life and critical keystone members of ecosystems. Despite a relatively high volume of research, all of which has reinforced again and again the plight of the amphibians, there is a serious gap between an understanding of the crisis, and conservation action and funding to address it.
Baron’s mantella photographed in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Image © iStock
A funding initiative for amphibians
Synchronicity Earth’s Amphibian Programme, launched in 2019, aims to support and catalyse conservation efforts for threatened amphibians. It does this by improving the knowledge base to guide amphibian conservation on the ground, by funding increased amphibian conservation in the field, and by supporting the development of amphibian conservation organisations.
Due to a historic lack of funding, many of the organisations actively working to conserve amphibians are nascent and face a lack of financial and institutional stability that hinders their ability to focus on their fantastic and dedicated conservation efforts.
At Synchronicity Earth, we have a track record of developing innovative funding solutions – in 2017 we established the George Rabb Amphibian Endowment Fund to ensure a long-term and stable source of funding for our amphibian conservation partners. This is an expendable endowment fund, named in honour of Dr George Rabb, who was fundamental in bringing the plight of amphibians to global attention. Through this fund we can provide stable and regular funding to those partners doing crucial work that is difficult to fundraise for – particularly red-listing work, as well as some amphibian conservation on the ground.
However, as we grow our amphibian programme to meet the huge challenge of global amphibian extinctions, we recognise that there is an urgent need to increase the rate at which we can direct funding to organisations working on the ground, and to ensure that the funding available increases as the capacity and number of our amphibian partners grows.
The Amphibian Conservation Fund is the first initiative of its kind for amphibians.
In 2020, our Chief Scientific Adviser Simon Stuart won the Blue Planet Prize for his outstanding contributions to wildlife conservation throughout his career. We were able to use part of this prize to launch the Amphibian Conservation Fund in support of Synchronicity Earth’s Amphibian Programme. With matched funding from two more generous donors, Fondation Segré and Oak Foundation, Synchronicity Earth is now building a vibrant coalition of partners united by an absolute determination to reverse the plight of amphibians.
Izabela Barata of Instituto Biotropicos sampling for bromeliad-dwelling frogs in the Espinhaço mountains. Image © Michel Becheleni
Stronger together: a pooled funding approach
A challenge for donors wishing to support amphibian conservation in the past has been the fact that most amphibian conservation work is undertaken by small, institutionally informal groups, working at a very local level in often remote and challenging regions.
Through the Amphibian Conservation Fund, like-minded donors can join forces and their resources to direct funding to a strategic and considered portfolio of partners within Synchronicity Earth’s Amphibian Programme. We have been able to find a diverse and promising set of organisations to work with through our close collaboration with the Amphibian Survival Alliance, which plays a critical role as the umbrella body of the amphibian conservation movement.
Our approach allows funding to be allocated in a way that ensures long-term support, access to the learning network of the wider Synchronicity Earth Programmes, and Synchronicity Earth’s support to build institutional capacity. This is particularly valuable for the smaller and more remote organisations, which are doing invaluable work on the ground but are often hard to access. These conditions mean that donors can rely on their funding to effectively enable a diverse range of conservation partners to focus on what they do best: saving amphibians from extinction.
Female Kloof frog guarding her eggs in South Africa. Image © EWT/Vernon Crookes
The forefront of amphibian conservation: who are the leaders on the ground?
Already, in the first few months of its existence, the Amphibian Conservation Fund is supporting Synchronicity Earth partners in Brazil, Peru, Ghana, South Africa, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea.
In Brazil, Instituto Biotrópicos is putting in place community-based conservation measures to save the isolated, bromeliad-dwelling, mountain-top frogs of the Espinhaço mountain range.
Asociación Pro Fauna Silvestre – Ayacucho, an inspirational and driven group of highly skilled volunteer scientists, has been operating for years as one of the only conservation organisations in the Ayacucho Region of Peru. Now, thanks to the Amphibian Conservation Fund, they are receiving funding for the first time to stabilise their organisation and begin scaling up their already high impact, challenging work in the Peruvian Andes.
Save Ghana Frogs, the only Ghanaian NGO dedicated exclusively to amphibian conservation, is being supported to continue its highly successful reforestation and habitat rehabilitation campaign in the Sui River Forest Reserve, the only remaining home of the Critically Endangered giant squeaker frog. Save Ghana Frogs is also helping communities surrounding the reserve register the land as a Community Resources Management Area, enabling local people to take back ownership of the forest.
South Africa’s only dedicated conservation programme for amphibians, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Amphibian Programme, is also being supported to restore habitat and put in place long-term innovative monitoring techniques for Endangered and Critically Endangered South African amphibians, bridging the gap between cutting edge research and on the ground conservation.