For the love of Mexico – Amphibians defeat charismatic species in a conservation contest

Amphibians defeat charismatic species in a conservation contest

Amphibians are not very popular among people as cats, birds or marine mammals. However, they are the most endangered group of vertebrates on Earth, facing a mass extinction very similar to the one that dinosaurs suffered 65 million of years ago. Even the high risk they are facing, in developing countries such as Mexico, they do not receive much support in terms of resources for conservation. Most of the time, the money goes to more charismatic species such as jaguar, wolves, eagles, macaws sea turtles or marine mammals. I am not saying these species are not important but amphibians are most important than most people think.  

By the end of 2016, Volkswagen Mexico organised a contest called “For love of Mexico” to support conservation projects focused in Mexican biodiversity. I decided to participate in the contest in order to get funding to continue my conservation project for Taylor’s Salamander, which has been supported by the EDGE of Existence Programme for the first two years. The contest basis requested the project’s background, so I decided to merge two projects in one: the Large-crested toad conservation project and the Taylor’s salamander project, creating a bigger one called Conservation of Endangered Amphibians from Puebla (the State where I live). This action had the objective to strengthen the project and make it a better contender against the other participants.

The contest consisted of two stages, the first one in which a group of recognised scientist should evaluate all the proposals and chose only two for the second and final stage. The first stage received about 40 proposals including conservation projects for jaguars, macaws, the worldwide famous vaquita, coral reefs, whales and of course my amphibian project. After reviewing all the projects, the judges chose two finalists: the coral reef conservation project in Mexican Caribbean and my conservation project for endangered amphibians from Puebla. At this stage, the public was in charge of deciding the winner. People had to vote on the contest website for their favourite project. The website included some information about each project so voters could be informed and support the project they considered the best.

Compared with the other contender, amphibians seemed to be at a disadvantage because they are not as charismatic or famous as coral reefs; also, the other project was focused on a very special region because Mexican Caribbean is perhaps the most popular touristic area in the country, so it was a very strong rival. The final stage of the contest lasted for one month and a half. We developed a campaign to promote our project on social media, radio, TV, and we installed a stand at the zoo, inviting people to vote and giving information about the situation of the target species, the actions we have already done and the future plan for the project. I think this was the best part of the contest because we were able to create awareness among people about the importance of amphibians and the risk of extinction that they are facing. People’s reaction towards the project was very positive and we got a lot of support. We also had support from zoo community and conservation organisations such as the Zoological Society of London, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Amphibian Ark and the Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders.  After all, not only my project “Conservation of Endangered Amphibians from Puebla” won the contest, amphibians won many followers and now more people recognise them as important species. I want to thank all the people who supported the project and helped us get votes for this contest.

-Alfredo

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