Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization
Projects

AMPHIBIAN AND REPTILE CONSERVATION / RESEARCH

AMPHIBIAN WORK 
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO) as  Uganda’s first non profit organization dedicated exclusively to amphibian conservation. EWCO protects conservation of endangered amphibians through research, conservation education, habitat restoration, advocacy and community engagement, including provision of alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on habitat resource use.

Our project combines basic research, awareness raising, citizen science, and conservation activities. We propose a broad investigation that allows updating conservation and amphibian disease status.
We aim to expand scientific knowledge on the ecology of the least concern and endangered amphibian species: create a baseline of home ranges, population densities, habitat characterization and habitat use patterns. We are intending to build a platform for amphibian citizen science project for the first time in Uganda

Elgon Amphibian and Reptile conservation project works towards the conservation of the critically threatened and poorly known amphibians and reptiles /herps in protected areas of Uganda.

We are dedicated to the conservation of all reptiles and amphibian diversity in Uganda  .
Our goal is  to promote the conservation of the amphibian and reptiles  and their natural ecosystems and implement positive change in human attitudes towards the amphibian and reptilian diversity in Uganda

EWCOs motivation to undertake amphibian conservation in Uganda is to develope  relevant skills in amphibian conservation. in 2019 EWCO applied for and our founder Dr.James Watuwa was awarded a Future Leaders of Amphibian Conservation scholarship to attend the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium to attend ACRS 2020 at the 9th World Congress of Herpetology in Dunedin, New Zealand https://www.amphibians.org/what-we-do/acrs/future-leaders-award/

EWCO promotes efforts to create  information, support, mentorship and opportunities for collaboration from across this growing, international partnership of organisations engaged in amphibian conservation.  
The greater East African region does not yet have enough amphibian researchers to contribute to conservation science and action devoted to the survival of amphibians. It is my future aspiration to continue as a hands-on amphibian conservation organization for as long as practical, advancing amphibian conservation in Uganda. 

EWCO is working in collaboration with Amphibian Ark and Amphibian Survival Alliance to establish the first ex-situ breeding program for amphibians in Uganda , Conduct a national Conservation Needs Assessment for Uganda and consequently develope the first Amphibian Conservation Action for Uganda (Which i am a volunteer  member on the IUCN amphibian assessment team)

PROJECT GOALS :

1 .To Inform guidelines for conservation of amphibians and reptiles in the parks of Uganda -For this objective, we focus mainly on community-based conservation education geared towards improving understanding on the need for the conservation of amphibians and reptiles within the national parks of Uganda

2. Training local team members, park rangers and students in carrying out comprehensive field surveys of amphibians and reptiles of the parks

3. Identification of the amphibians and reptiles using combined morphological, ecological and genetic (DNA barcoding) approaches.

4. Production of the check-list and distribution map of Amphibians and reptiles using both field survey approaches and literature searches.

5. Identification of possible threats to amphibians and reptiles in the parks .- From our field surveys , we aim to identify threats mainly arising from human activities such as deforestation, use of chemicals in farmlands, and killing of amphibians and reptiles out of fear

6 Increase students ’knowledge of herpetological science thus developing students’ competences in collecting, processing, analyzing and communicating scientific data

7 Encourage students’ awareness of and appreciation for the local environment in addition to nurturing students’ interest in and enthusiasm for herpetological fieldwork.

8 Increase students’ awareness of careers in science, particularly herpetology and field ecology.

WHY CONSERVATION OF AMPHIBIANS AND REPTILES

Ecologically, amphibians are important in many ways; they are mostly predators, acting as primary and secondary carnivores. Their prey consists mostly of insects, some of which are pests to crops or disease vectors. Amphibians are known to be an easily recognizable taxon in given habitats; and populations are sometimes specialised within a narrow habitat. This makes it easy and practical to monitor changes in composition over time, given different conditions on their habitat are reflected in changes in numbers and species

During the past several decades there has been an alarming decline in many amphibian and reptile populations worldwide.  Even though scientists are making headway in understanding some of these declines, much is still not known about the health of even local amphibian and reptile species.  What we do know is that amphibians and reptiles are outstanding bio-indicator species and if their populations are declining it is a signal to us that something has gone awry in the environment: and that should be of concern to all of us.

It has been said, that people will only care about that which they know.  Herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians (collectively known as ‘herps’), excites students of all ages.  While some herps are familiar to students, most of what students know about these animals is only from pictures.  When they have an opportunity to handle them, their excitement quickly evolves into an interest in the habitats where these animals are found.  We have found that even a surface-level knowledge about animal and habitat leads students into complex scientific investigations.

OUR APPROACH

CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECT

CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECT FOR AMPHIBIAN AND REPTILE CONSERVATION

The amphibian and reptilian count in Uganda is a Citizen Science Program to map and track the amphibian and reptilian diversity distributions across Uganda’s protected areas. We use volunteer-based surveys of the more widespread species from across Uganda to determine the conservation status of all of our amphibians and reptiles.
It is a chance for everyday “citizens” to be directly involved in amphibian and reptilian conservation. Participants will learn how to find and identify amphibian and reptilians (Snakes) to help scientists identify conservation concerns for the amphibian and reptilians  .Everyone who participates in the amphibian and reptile (Snake ) Count does it for the joy of being outdoors and helping promote the conservation of our most unique amphibian and reptilian diversity in Uganda.

Our intention for students and the general public is to gain knowledge and skills in identifying common reptiles and amphibians and to understand the interrelationships among organisms as well as the relationships between animals and various habitats at the research study sites. Our study sites include Uganda Wildlife Education Center , Uganda Reptile Village and National parks of Uganda .  Because of the long-term nature of this project, students are able to see major changes in land use including clear-cutting and they are able to assess the environmental impacts on various reptiles and amphibians due to human uses of particular areas of the sites

COMMUNITY CONSERVATION EDUCATION & AWARENESS/OUTREACH
we work tirelessly promoting community-based conservation by empowering   and providing land owners, homeowners and public servants tools to help with promote amphibian and reptile conservation in their communities. Thus creating   healthier ecosystems and increased awareness of the issues amphibians ,  reptiles  and other wildlife face in our rapidly developing world.

At Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization   we are dedicated to providing amphibian and reptile presentations, radio talks   and other educational programs to the public and schools in communities where we work. These programs are the hallmark our initiative to change human perceptions about   reptiles and amphibians.
Our work helps dispel myths and provided up-close and personal experiences for people with live snakes. We also take people on virtual field trips to find wild snakes or share our captive, educational snakes.

HABITAT PROTECTION AND PRESERVATION

Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization   seeks out opportunities to leverage its conservation impact by identifying and protecting landscapes of high ecological integrity with high snake and frog species diversity.
In partnership with Uganda Wildlife and Conservation Education  Centre, Nature Uganda and other conservation organizations , we are seeking funds  to establish a facility to expand our capacity to breed endangered amphibians and reptiles  in Uganda

IN SITU AMPHIBIAN CONSERVATION

In view of the conditions of many natural areas in our world today it is obvious that an active approach to in situ conservation is needed.  Most natural areas have been greatly influenced directly or indirectly by humans for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years. Much of this historical human influence has resulted in damaging many of our more sensitive habitats.
Within both of the reserves the EWCO is actively conducting in situ conservation projects to increase the diversity and abundance of the flora and fauna native to Uganda

Our Amphibian conservation project largely focuses on in situ work around designing and putting into practice several pioneering methods of amphibian conservation.  Our amphibian in situ conservation projects are focused on species that exists within our Uganda’s reserves, or were historically present in the regions.  The in situ amphibian projects range from creating artificial breeding sites in favorable habitats specific to the target taxa, rehabilitating natural breeding sites that were damaged by prior human activity, or simply enhancing breeding sites in “healthy” habitats to increase breeding potential.
We need to do all that we can to preserve the known remaining Uganda populations of this beautiful and extremely rare species, and rest assured at Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization we will continue to work hard so that the metapopulations within the forest Reserves continue to thrive and expand!!!

 HABITAT CREATION AND REHABILITATION

At Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization   we are actively involved in trying to restore or improve certain parts of our reserves, and in doing so increase the vigor of the flora and fauna found within. Our in situ conservation activities include planting native plant and tree species to increase species and genetic diversity, which is vital for long term survival; recovering or increasing the abundance of certain tree and herbaceous plant species that are an important natural food source for animals in the area; rehabilitating key terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that have been damaged by human activity prior to being a biological reserve; creating terrestrial and aquatic habitats that have become rare or were naturally rare due to specifics; eliminating non-native invasive species; reforesting severely damaged areas such as pasture or other historically mono-specific agricultural zones.

AMPHIBIAN RESEARCH

Another objective for students and the general public was to develop competence in conducting research on population trends for common species The combination of animal and habitat content knowledge with research skills leads to a better understanding not only of the local environment but also a deeper conceptual understanding related to environmental literacy. Throughout our programs , our students are engaged in the whole process of science: generating research questions, reading research and talking with others working in the field, struggling with equipment and data collection, interpreting collected data and finally presenting their research project methodologies and findings to others. Students are exposed to careers in the biological/ecological science disciplines and had opportunities to meet and work with a number of scientists. We want students to know not only what scientists do and how scientists think, but to gain an awareness of and appreciation for local organisms and habitats. The knowledge, skills and positive dispositions towards the environment are the basis of strong environmental literacy. Our herp program has clearly become a model of authentic environmental education.

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Herpetofauna survey in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Uganda 

AMPHIBIAN SURVEYING AND COLLECTING.

Amphibians and reptiles are caught by hand or net during diurnal and nocturnal searches. Our field research assistants , with help from park rangers, local guides, and villagers, search in forests, around small streams, and near flooded vegetation at each location. Notes are made regarding GPS coordinates, ecology, behavior, date, time, and habitat details of each collected specimen. Animals are preserved in 10% buffered formalin. Tissue samples are taken from most specimens and stored in 100% ethanol. On completion of the expedition, with proper permits, the specimens and tissues are transferred to appropriate laboratories . Genomic DNA extraction from tissues and PCR reactions with gene-specific primers followed standard laboratory protocols.

AMPHIBIAN &REPTILIAN SPECIES IDENTIFICATION

All animals are initially identified by external morphology and putative species ranges published in the literature (Branch, 1998; Schiøtz, 1999; Spawls et al., 2002; Spawls et al., 2006; Tilbury, 2010). Initial identifications are corroborated by experts (EG and MB). Phylogenetic analyses of genetic data are combined with published GenBank data

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