04/27/16

The Bully of All Toads

Currently in Madagascar there is a bully. But, this is not your typical bully. This bully is the Asian toad, also known as Duttaphrynus melanostictus. The toads are threatening rare wildlife and frightening locals.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org - Amphibian Survival Alliance.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org – Amphibian Survival Alliance.

The theory on how they got to Madagascar is that they hitched a ride in some shipping containers from Asia between 2007 -2010. While Madagascar doesn’t have native toads, people who saw these bullies roaming knew something was wrong. And still no one knows why they have decided to make Madagascar their new home.

These toads are endangering locals, harming snakes, lemurs and exotic animals that are unique to the island. If they feed off these toads they will be poisoned, since these toads are known to be very poisonous. Smaller animals can shrink in size and as species, become extinct.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Scientists are still trying to come up with ideas on how to get rid of these toads and such measures wouldn’t be horribly expensive. It would cost about $2 million to $10 million (the effort would need only a wealthy backer from the West) — but that’s really just a guess. No one knows exactly where the toads are or precisely how many are in Madagascar. There’s no easy way to find them, and there’s no quick method of dispatching them, at least not in the numbers necessary for eradication.

And then there’s the fact that no one has tried to remove invasive toads on such a scale before. There have been three successful removal projects, but they were all in much smaller areas.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up.

So it looks like eradication won’t be possible, the scientists conclude, at least without a lot more research that would let managers and the government overcome many hurdles. And by that time, the toads will probably have become so numerous that, like in Australia, any such efforts would be impossible.

 
Leight-Ann BradyGuest post by Leigh-Ann Brady, who resides in NJ with her 8 year son. She is an artist and writer who is also concerned about the environment.

06/9/15

Lemur Conservation Network – Eco Interview with Lynne Venart

When was your organization founded? Please tell us a bit about its mission, goals…

We are a very new organization; we began social media in December 2014, and just launched our website in February 2015! The website launch marked the one year anniversary of the lemur action plan, published in the journal Science. This action plan was authored by over 100 international primatologists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group, and targets 30 priority sites across Madagascar with urgent conservation strategies aimed to save lemurs from extinction. The plan was developed by the key minds in lemur conservation, but it has yet to be fully funded.

That’s where the Lemur Conservation Network comes in. We formed to raise awareness about the importance of lemur conservation, and to encourage everyone to help. Our network unites over 40 organizations working on the ground in Madagascar to protect the land and its unique species. We aim to educate the public about Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, and urge all friends of lemurs, conservation, and the earth to support the cause and the projects in the action plan. We embrace all lemur fans, no matter your age, educational background, or location. It’s important to engage everyone who is curious about science and these fascinating creatures: we need more cheerleaders for conservation!

 Coquerel's Sifaka mom and baby in Madagascar

Coquerel’s Sifaka mom and baby in Madagascar

What is your educational background and what led to creating this organization?

I come to lemur conservation from a very different background than my colleagues at the Lemur Conservation Network, who are all PhD scientists. I have been a consultant for a variety of nonprofit organizations in branding, marketing, and web design for over 15 years.

And there is no cause I care more about than lemur conservation. I’ve been fascinated by lemurs and Madagascar for almost 20 years because of the extreme biodiversity on the island. I saw a unique need in lemur conservation for my professional skill set. A lot of people don’t know much about Madagascar or that the lemurs and other animals that inhabit it are facing an extinction crisis. A lot of people also don’t know just how cool these animals are! It can be difficult for scientists and conservation leaders to speak in a way that your average person will understand and find interesting. I bridge the gap between the science and the general public.

What are some challenges you have faced and how did you deal with them?

At first, it was difficult for our member organizations to understand what we wanted to do with the Lemur Conservation Network. In essence, we are a member organization, but we do not accept fees from our members because we want all of them to be equal, and we don’t want to take funds away from their important work on the ground in Madagascar. I think it was difficult at first for people in the field to understand that we existed because we wanted to help them by promoting their work and gaining more lemur fans who will support them.

Since I was not a known person in the field (my nonprofit consulting has been in a variety of fields like health care, education, and community engagement, but not lemur conservation), it was just so out of the blue.

It helped that, before much work had been done on the project, I gained the support of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group who published the lemur action plan. I knew it was important to have the backing of respected scientists in order to be taken seriously. They also guided the project a lot in the beginning to ensure that it would be useful for organizations on the ground. Their help was invaluable.

Black and White Ruffed Lemur in Madagascar

Black and White Ruffed Lemur in Madagascar

What can people do to help? Donate, and contribute to your cause? Other ideas?

At the Lemur Conservation Network, we recognize that we need everyone’s help to protect lemurs and their habitat! We thrive on participation.

How you can help:

  1. Support conservation in Madagascar and the lemur action plan by donating to one of our member organizations.
  2. Organize charity events in your area for us or one of our member organizations.
  3. Learn about volunteer opportunities that support conservation in Madagascar on our website.
  4. Read our blog to learn more about lemurs, life as a scientist, and more.
  5. Get inspired and tell your friends!

How do you reach your targeted audience? Is it through your website, advertising or social media or another route? Which is most effective and why?

We have an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, where we share news about lemurs and Madagascar, publicize our blog posts, and share information about lemur science and quick facts about various lemur species. We also have a robust photo archive from our members. There are over 100 species of lemur, and tons of unique chameleons, frogs, geckos, birds, and plant species in Madagascar, so there’s a lot of material to pick from!

How do you keep the audience engaged over time?

Our blog is key in engaging our audience. We have posts from scientists working on the ground in Madagascar, but also from zookeepers, travelers, and high school students with a passion for conservation. This variety of viewpoints keeps the content fresh and appealing.

Tell us about your events around the world and some of the campaigns you have started.

Our launch party in March in Washington, DC welcomed over 150 guests. We had a ton of really fun raffle prizes, like lemur ties, handmade crafts from Madagascar, and even lemur bobbleheads! At our launch, we randomly selected two member organizations to receive donations at the event, and raised over $1,000 for them!

We also hold networking happy hours around the world. Our first was recently in Washington, DC, and we have two more scheduled for the coming months at science conferences around the world. We also recently participated in a Discover Madagascar festival in the DC area, which was attended by hundreds of Malagasy people who now live in the United States. It was great fun to share stories about lemurs and Madagascar with those native to the country.

We encourage our supporters to hold fundraising events where they live as well. One of our bloggers recently raised over £1000 at a charity race in the UK supporting one of our members, the Aspinall Foundation. There is interest in the London area to begin holding more fundraising events.

What is in the works for the future? What haven’t you yet tackled, but will want to do soon?

We are currently building up educational resources on the unique species of Madagascar, and have a couple of other educational webinars in the works. It’s important to spread our enthusiasm about lemurs and Madagascar to everyone, young and old!

We are also building an in-language Malagasy version of the website, so we can better reach the community in Madagascar.

We are a very new organization, but we have received a ton of support from all over the world. We are blown away by what we have accomplished in just a few short months. We hope to keep the enthusiasm going, and to continue to build up the lemur fan base. Lemurs rock!

Lynne Venart, Project Manager & Creative Director, Lemur Conservation Network

Lynne Venart, Project Manager & Creative Director, Lemur Conservation Network

***A podcast with Lynne Venart, interviewed by Susan Newman (Suzy Brandtastic), is coming very soon.***

Contact Info:

Website: www.lemurconservationnetwork.org
Support Conservation on the Ground in Madagascar: http://lemurconservationnetwork.org/support-conservation/
Blog: http://lemurconservationnetwork.org/blog/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lemurconservationnetwork
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LemurNetwork

06/4/15

DAYS OF MADAGASCAR 2015

GIORNATE DEL MADAGASCAR 2015 / DAYS OF MADAGASCAR 2015
The island of Marco Polo

June 12 and 13, 2015
Venice, Museum of Natural History

Isolated from Africa to many tens of millions of years, Madagascar has developed its own peculiar fauna and flora, dramatically different from that of other land masses, near and far.

Similarly colonization by man, which took place on a massive scale only for two thousand years, has seen the mix of elements Africans, Asians, Arabs and Europeans who have forged a culture of “metissage” composed of no less than 18 ethnic groups each with its particular history and traditions, have in common the basic language of Indonesian origin and the cult of the dead, called “famadihana”.

Unfortunately Madagascar is also a land of great contrasts, with widespread problems of social and economic. The days that pay special attention to aspects concerning the natural wealth and cultural diversity of this island, home to the intervention of researchers that deal with biodiversity and personnel working in health, showing how much Italy is engaged in this country.

In collaboration with the Regional Museum of Natural Sciences (Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali) of Turin and the Association “Malagasy Miray.”

Amphibian courtesy of Franco Andreone

Video below: Interview of Franco Andreone (herpetologist) at Andriamanero, Isalo National Park.

This video is in Italian: #madagascarexpedition2013: Betampona Rainforest
 


 

DOWNLOAD THE PRESENTATION OF THE INITIATIVE (.ppt 12.3 MB) >>>

PROGRAM

Friday, June 12, 2015 20.30 – Cinema Giorgione

Screening of the film in English “Island of lemurs in Madagascar” by David Douglas and Drew Fellman, with narrated by Morgan Freeman and with Patricia Wright

Introduction and presentation of: Franco Andreone (Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin) Giuseppe Donati (Oxford Brookes University)

Entrance to the Cinema Giorgione free until all available seats

Saturday, June 13, 2015 – Natural History Museum

10.30 Welcome and opening of the day
Gabriella Belli (Director Civic Museums Foundation of Venice)
Paola Casagrande (Director of the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin) Randrianantoandro Solofo Theophile (Minister Counsellor Embassy of Madagascar)

Franco Andreone (Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali Regional Museum of Natural Sciences of Turin)
Madagascar: stories from a biodiverse land biodiverse

Giuseppe Donati (Oxford Brookes University)
Survive the next day: the lesson of lemurs

15:00

Riccardo Bononi (IRFOSS Padua)
Life, death and disease in the ancestor worship

Italian volunteers in Madagascar
Friends Amici di Jangany
The Italian volunteer in MadagascarVolontari Italiani in Madagascar

Olga del Madagascar
Culture, nature and music: songs taken from ‘album “Ma nature”

Tasting The with Malagasy vanilla

Hours 10:00 to 18:00 – Gallery of Cetaceans

Photo exhibition “Madagasikara” by Franco Andreone: throughout the day and until August 2, 2015 will be exhibited suggestive images dedicated to the nature, history and traditions of Madagascar.

Information points: voluntary associations will be on hand to talk about their experience in Madagascar

WORKSHOPS:
appointment until all available seats

Hours 10:30 to 12:00 and 15:30 to 17:00
Children aged 7 to 11 years

“The nature of the island”, edited by Coop. Silty
“Sounds and rhythms of Madagascar”, edited by Olga del Madagascar:

10:15, 11:30, 15:00, 16:15
For children 4 to 6 years accompanied by their parents

“The chameleon says narrates, animal stories and legends of Madagascar” by Barchetta Blu

INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS:

The day is free entry until all the places available, except for laboratories that require an admission ticket to the museum (free for residents and people born in Venice, upon presentation of a photo ID).

To book workshops call 041 2750206

The photo exhibition will be open for free only on the occasion of this day and until August 2, 2015 is required to be in possession of a ticket to the museum.

 

Information shared by:

Franco Andreone
Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali
Via G. Giolitti, 36
I-10123 TORINO – ITALY
website www.francoandreone.it
Facebook www.facebook.com/franco.andreone
Twitter @francoandreone
Youtube Betampona
Youtube Isalo

04/5/15

How Awareness Really Catches Fire

The phone is ringing and a friend is excited to tell me there’s a discussion about frogs right now on WNYC radio. Robin Moore, the author and photographer of “In Search of Lost Frogs,” is being interviewed on the Leonard Lopate Show (The Conservation Efforts Trying to Keep Frogs From Going Extinct). At the same moment, a Jersey City colleague is emailing me about the same thing and writes that she’s left a comment about Frogs Are Green and our kids frog art project on WNYC’s website.

During the interview they discuss many of the issues that frogs face today, including the deadly Chytrid Fungus and climate change. One caller asks about the drought situation in California and its toll on frogs. They also talk about how many frog species have gone extinct in the wild and at the same time new species are being discovered, as close as New York. They also talk about how important the medical research is as they test the poisonous skin of dart frogs.

dart frog by devin edmonds

Dart Frog courtesy of Devin Edmonds

Almost every day, Facebook friends post on my timeline or the Frogs Are Green page, or Tweet at us about frogs and/or the environment.

I’m sharing this because it was six years ago this May that I founded Frogs Are Green, and so many people laughed at this cause. They’d say, “Frogs? … Who’s going to care about frogs?”

I’m happy to tell you that in six years we have reached over a million people. Each month we have 13,000 visitors who look at more than 32,000 pages, which gives us an amazing bounce rate of 1.8 %. Yes, that is not a misprint, we have a 1.8% bounce rate. These stats have been holding steady for years and are again on the rise.

We didn’t used to post on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (groups) and Twitter every day, but in 2014 we made a commitment to do so and reach more people than ever.

As the above story shows, our mission is working. Awareness really begins to catch fire when others know you so well that they support and advance your campaign goals without hesitation.

It all comes from zeroing in on a niche and being consistent by sharing every day. By being “top of mind” on a particular thing that’s so different, so unique, they just see frogs and think of Frogs Are Green.

10 Tips for building your nonprofit’s awareness and following

  • Make sure that your website (the nucleus of your online presence) is 100% on target in expressing your mission and goals. On your homepage be brief and entice, don’t overwhelm with too many calls to action. Make sure your brand and mission are crystal clear. Be sure you are blogging and/or adding new, valuable content consistently.
  • Be sure when you blog, post, or tweet, you are adding an appropriate and eye-catching photo that will prompt others to share it, not just “like” it.
  • Be sure you are using #hashtags but don’t go crazy with them, lest no one will see or read your post… (I see this a lot on Instagram; so many hashtags I can’t find the message!)
  • Don’t try to sell all the time with posts/tweets about buying products, classes or donating to your cause. Once in a while is all right, but you will really build your audience by sharing significant information. As they move around your website reading articles they will come to respect your efforts and just may click that donate button on their own.
  • Your “competition” organization is your friend. Remember, you are both trying to help others, save wildlife and the environment, and so those that follow those other organizations may follow you too! Be kind and retweet.
  • If you are planning to boost or advertise, make sure you are being selective about the information and target audience. Do your homework and know where your target is, both online or offline.
  • Remember that your target audience can be in many different places. Be sure to review your Google Analytics each week and identify if what you are doing is working. For example, if you are spending most of your social media time on Facebook but when you look at your stats you have more people visiting your site from Twitter, you should tweet more often than you are!
  • People consume content in many different ways, so be sure you are creating video for YouTube, audio for Podcasting, Powerpoint (for Slideshare or LinkedIn), photo galleries on Flickr, Pinterest and Facebook, blog posts that can embed these other media files, graphic images, and more… (and then share across social sites).
  • When you have new media to share, don’t post on every social site at the same time and then not post for a week until the next post. Schedule different places each day so your content is circulating all the time.
  • Be sure to alert the local media about events and other important news so that they can write about you. If you don’t tell them yourself, how do you expect them to know? Publicity helps awareness and begets more publicity.

Frogs Are Green was fortunate to interview Robin Moore on a podcast also. Listen here >> Robin Moore

03/22/15

The Young Environmental Artist

The young artist’s family and friends step out the cab and walk into the gallery one by one, parents and children of different ages. They begin looking and move down the wall, admiring the variety of each artwork. The young artist turns and as she walks across the gallery I see a shy smile across her lips. Yes, she has spotted her own artwork and moves closer to see it. I ask her if I can take her photograph with her artwork and she agrees. Her family takes pictures also.

young environmental artist at 58 Gallery on Coles Street in Jersey City

We have a conversation about whether she had a lesson in school about frogs and the environment before she did her artwork (statement) on pollution. She tells me that she did some research but just created this based on her own imagination.

It’s a wonderful and sometimes strange feeling when one sees their artwork hanging on a gallery wall. For an artist, it’s what we all dream of. Visibility and the opportunity to share what we think.

As we’re talking, I see the parents and the other children moving around the gallery discussing the other works and taking photographs that will hopefully be shared with the extended family and perhaps on social media.

family admires environmental and frog art at 58 Gallery in Jersey City

The youngest of the children takes me around to show her favorite pictures and why. She’s about 4 years old and drawn to the cutest and friendliest of the pictures.

They all say how much they enjoyed the exhibition and will be sure to do more frog art next Fall.

Two young girls admire frog art

During the afternoon parents and children come by to see the student artworks but some people walk through the gallery on their way to a separate destination and do not even look at the walls, as if there is nothing there.

This baffles me and makes me wonder if there are some artists who think only their art is what’s important. Isn’t being an artist about appreciating self-expression, both your own and others?

Do seasoned artists think that because they are at a certain level of success, a young artist’s vision is of no consequence? Aren’t their artworks worth a look?

I believe that every person has the right to be seen and heard.

Having an appreciation of the arts (in its various forms, from dance and opera, to fine art and yes student frog artwork too) means stepping out of your own little world of self-expression and seeing what others have to say too.

Susan Newman, founder of Frogs Are Green hosted original Jersey City student frog art exhibit at 58 Gallery.

02/27/15

Chytrid Fungus is Found in Madagascar

The entire amphibian class is currently afflicted by a global pandemic that is accelerating extinction at an alarming rate. Until now, a few islands like Madagascar were thought not to have been affected. However, an analysis of the latest series of tests shows that the chytrid fungus also poses a threat to amphibians in Madagascar. “This is sad news for herpetologists around the world,” says Dr. Dirk Schmeller of the UFZ, who was involved in analyzing the samples and has, together with Elodie Courtois, detected Bd in samples from Madagascar collected in 2010. “Firstly, it means that an island that is home to a particularly high number of amphibian species is now at risk. Several hundred species live only on this island. And, secondly, if the pathogen has managed to reach such a secluded island, it can and will occur everywhere.”

frog by Miguel Vences / TU Braunschweig

IMAGE: Chytrid fungus was proved on Platypelis pollicaris from Ranomafana. view more
Credit: Miguel Vences / TU Braunschweig

Prof. Miguel Vences from TU Braunschweig adds, “The chytrid fungus was found in all four families of the indigenous Madagascan frogs, which means it has the potential to infect diverse species. This is a shock!” The study also shows that the disease affects amphibians at medium to high altitudes, which ties in with observations from other parts of the world, where the effects of the amphibian epidemic have been felt primarily in the mountains.

“Luckily, there have not yet been any dramatic declines in amphibian populations in Madagascar,” Dirk Schmeller reports. “However, the pathogen appears to be more widespread in some places than others. Madagascar may have several strains of the pathogen, maybe even the global, hypervirulent strain. This shows how important it is to be able to isolate the pathogen and analyze it genetically, which is something we haven’t yet succeeded in doing.” At the same time, the researchers recommend continuing with the monitoring program across the entire country to observe the spread of the disease. The scientists also suggest setting up extra breeding stations for key species, in addition to the two centers already being built, to act as arks, so that enough amphibians could be bred to recolonize the habitats in a crisis. “We are also hopeful that we may be able to suppress the growth of the Bd pathogen with the help of skin bacteria,” says Miguel Vences. “It might then be possible to use these bacteria as a kind of probiotic skin ointment in the future.” A high diversity of microbial communities in the water could also reduce the potential for infection, according to earlier investigations conducted by Dirk S. Schmeller, Frank Pasmans, and their teams (published in Current Biology).

The outbreak of amphibian chytridiomycosis in Madagascar puts an additional seven per cent of the world’s amphibian species at risk, according to figures from the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA). “The decline in Madagascan amphibians is not just a concern for herpetologists and frog researchers,” says Dr. Franco Andreone, “It would be a great loss for the entire world.”
 
Guest post by Dr. Dirk Schmeller
Originally published:
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-02/hcfe-acf022615.php