People and Partnerships
Goal of the programme
The goal of this Conservation Programme is to build the evidence-base and capacity to underpin, promote and conduct a strategic conservation plan for the Chinese giant salamander (CGS) within its native range in China.
To achieve this goal, ZSL leads a collaborative CGS conservation programme involving a group of organisations from the host country. This strong partnership will, through joint research, generate a better understanding of the CGS ecology, biology (i.e. breeding), genetic origin and disease management. This will enable effective in situ and ex situ conservation efforts on the ground and will aim to ensure the long persistence of CGS in the wild.
Partnership — Partners
Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Founded in 1826, ZSL is an international science, conservation and education charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL pursues this mission through worldwide conservation programmes, high-quality research by the Institute of Zoology and public education and inspiration through two zoos (know more at http://www.zsl.org/about-us/).
To conserve the CGS, the highest priority EDGE amphibian species for conservation action and a central flagship project for ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme, ZSL initiated the development of this collaborative conservation programme from planning to implementation. Specifically, through the Institute of Zoology, ZSL has helped establish a CGS disease diagnostic laboratory at Shaanxi Normal University, and is providing expert guidance on undertaking high quality CGS in-situ monitoring, genetics and disease research to understand its ecology, phylogenetics and disease control. Through this project, ZSL aims to work with key Chinese partners to: raise public awareness; inform and influence conservation policy for this species; encourage, motivate and engage with all important stakeholders; and to implement and achieve effective and appropriate in situ and ex situ conservation actions for the CGS and its habitats.
The Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ), Yunnan Province is the institution responsible for the CGS conservation genetics aspect of this project. KIZ is one of the 20 biological institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and is one of China’s first class zoological research institutes. The research priorities of KIZ are the conservation, exploration and sustainable utilisation of animal resources in China. Professor Ya-Ping Zhang (Academician and the Director of KIZ), Dr. Jing Che (Associate Researcher of KIZ) and Professor Robert Murphy (Adjunct Professor of the CAS) will provide valuable training and support to the CGS conservation genetics EDGE Fellow Fang Yan in developing in-country understanding of CGS range-wide population genetics.
The CGS disease diagnostic laboratory at Shaanxi Normal University (SNNU), Shaanxi Province will lead the CGS disease diagnostics and mitigation strategies project. Professor Min-Yao Wu (Professor of the College of Life Science, SNNU) and EDGE Fellow Feng Zhou will take primary responsibility to understand the CGS farming industry including commodity chains, disease and husbandry issues, and the possible impacts of the industry on wild CGS. This is crucial to implementing long-term disease control measures in the context of wild and captive management of CGS, engendering a more sustainable and self-sufficient farming industry, and hence promoting conservation of wild CGS and other amphibian species.
Guizhou province is an important range area for the CGS, reporting historic wild CGS distribution in 26 townships in the Yangtze region and 9 townships in the Pearl region. Professor Gang Wei, based at Guiyang University (GU), is chief project partner in the development of in situ monitoring and conservation programmes for wild CGS and its habitat. Professor Gang Wei will provide training and support to the EDGE Fellow Jing-Cai Lv in developing wild CGS monitoring techniques and engaging with CGS protected area management. GU’s Animal Research Institute in the Ecological Research Centre will host a long-term monitoring programme and develop locally-based management strategies for wild CGS in Guizhou province.
Donors and Supporters
The UK Government Darwin Initiative is supporting a three year project entitled “A sustainable future for Chinese giant Salamanders” (Ref 19-003). This project aims to: 1) establish the evidence base for developing strategic in situ conservation planning of this species 2) develop knowledge of CGS conservation genetics and phylogeography 3) build disease diagnostic and research capacity 4) establish ex situ protocols for conservation breeding and reintroduction 5) conduct CEPA (Communication, Education and Public Awareness) campaigns to raise the profile of this species and 6) formulate a globally collaborative network to improve conservation action planning for the CGS.
We would also like to gratefully acknowledge the support of: United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Synchronicity Earth, Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).
Professor of Wildlife Epidemiology, European Specialist in Wildlife Population Health, Visiting Professor at the Royal Veterinary College, Honorary Professor at University College London, and Deputy Head of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, Professor Cunningham is a world expert on wildlife disease, and has spent much of his professional career focusing on diseases impacting amphibians internationally and planning long-term conservation initiatives for amphibians. Professor Cunningham leads this project and is responsible for its overall direction, activities and outputs.
Becky Shu Chen
As the Project Coordinator, Becky works for the Institute of Zoology and is line-managed by Professor Cunningham, but is based full-time in China at the Kunming Institute of Zoology (KIZ). Becky graduated from the National University of Singapore, and has worked on interdisciplinary research including Asian elephant conservation in China, and is part of the Elephant Conservation Group in Southeast Asia. Becky is responsible for coordinating the CGS project, including managing the budget, leading the CEPA (Communication, Education and Public Awareness-raising) campaign and liaising with project partners and stakeholders across China.
Fang Yan is an EDGE Fellow focusing on CGS conservation genetics, who is based in the State Key Laboratory of Herpetology Diversity and Evolution at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Fang did her PhD on amphibian population genetics and conservation at KIZ, and currently works as a research fellow. Fang has studied the phylogenetics of CGS mitochondrial lineages since 2009, and she will continue to investigate the population genetics of wild CGS at a wide range and build the genetic database using both mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite markers. Fang’s work will serve as a guide for the wild CGS monitoring and will promote the development of a strategic conservation action planning.
Feng Zhou is an EDGE Fellow focusing on CGS disease diagnostics and mitigation strategies, who is based in Professor Minyao Wu’s laboratory at the Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an. Feng received training in Professor Cunningham’s laboratory at the Institute of Zoology in February 2011 for 6 weeks, and has obtained basic and advanced technical skills in amphibian disease diagnostics. Feng will conduct cascade training of staff at SNNU in these techniques and will also process samples from the target areas of this project to better understand the threat of disease to wild and farmed CGS across the range.
Jing-Cai Lv is Master student of Zunyi Medical College and also an EDGE Fellow focusing on in situ surveys, monitoring and management of wild CGS. He is currently based in the Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Environment Conservation in Guiyang University. Jing-Cai participated in wetland research on amphibian and reptile diversity in the Protected Areas of Guizhou province in 2011-2012, and has been trained in field survey skills relating to species distribution and population monitoring. Within this project, Jing-Cai will build the evidence base of wild CGS distribution and ecology by: identifying the presence/absence and relative abundances of CGS in selected areas along with the analysis of habitat parameters, especially in the province of Guizhou; facilitate research on population genetics and disease diagnostics; and help achieve the ultimate goal of conserving wild CGS and associated freshwater species / ecosystems.