Action: Provide education programmes about amphibians
- One study in Taiwan found that education programmes about wetlands and amphibians, along with other interventions, doubled a population of Taipei frogs.
- Three studies (including one replicated study) in Germany, Mexico, Zimbabwe and the USA found that education programmes increased the amphibian knowledge of students, boatmen and their tourists. Two studies (including one replicated study) in Germany and Slovenia found that students who were taught using live amphibians and had previous direct experience, or who participated in outdoor amphibian conservation work, gained greater knowledge, had improved attitudes towards species and retained knowledge better than those than those taught indoors with pictures.
- Four studies in Mexico, Taiwan, Zimbabwe and the USA found that courses on amphibians and the environment were attended by 119–6,000 participants and amphibian camps by 700 school children.
Providing education programmes about amphibians can be a valuable way to raise awareness about the threats to species and the habitats that they live in and about what can be done to help. They can also help to change perceptions and may therefore indirectly help towards conserving species.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, before-and-after study in 2005 of amphibian education at a school in Baden-Württemberg, Germany (Randler, Ilg & Kern 2005) found that although knowledge improved significantly for all students, those who participated in outdoor conservation work performed significantly better. Achievement scores increased from two to four for indoor students and to five for students who had also captured and identified animals outdoors. Emotions did not vary between groups. Students expressed high interest and well-being and low anger, anxiety and boredom. Forty-six 9–11 year-olds were taught about amphibians indoors. A small booklet guided children through learning activities covering identification, development, habitat requirements, predation, migration and conservation. Half of the students also helped to preserve migrating amphibians, handling them outdoors. Species identification and emotional variables were tested before, one week after and 4–5 weeks after the programme.
A before-and-after study in 2002–2007 of a project to develop nature tourism at Lake Xochimilco, Mexico (Bride et al. 2008) found that training local boatmen in environmental interpretation resulted in increased relevant knowledge, job satisfaction, incomes and visitor awareness of axolotls Ambystoma mexicanum. Fifty-five boatmen completed workshops and 64 other locals attended conservation or souvenir production workshops. Trained boatmen and other students became facilitators and project assistants. Following workshops, visitors regarded boatmen rather than videos as the best source of information about the lake and its wildlife (pre-workshop: 10 vs 55%; after: 37 vs 18% respectively). Boatmen incomes increased if they provided environmental interpretation to tourists (without: 100; with: 165 pesos/trip. In 2002–2007, eight workshops were held. Workshops covered amphibian biology and conservation, conservation education, souvenir production and five were on environmental interpretation for boatmen. Content was informed by baseline data collected on visitation, souvenir markets and from boatmen. Other activities were also used to raise awareness in tourists. A survey of 11 boatmen was undertaken for one month following training.
A study in 2001–2008 of an educational programme for children in Taiwan (Chang et al. 2008) found that 700 school children attended ‘Froggy Camps’. In 2001–2002, summer camps were two days and one night and from 2003 three days and two nights. Since 2005, camps were held twice a year. Children were given lessons on amphibians and insects in Taiwan and were taken into the field to observe frogs and other wildlife. They were taught to identify all 32 species of frogs and about how to protect natural resources.
A study in 1999–2006 of paddy fields in Taipei County, Taiwan (Lin et al. 2008) found that educating and raising awareness in a local community, along with other interventions, doubled a population of Taipei frogs Rana taipehensis. In 2002, over 80 locals, largely teachers and social workers attended a five day wetland conservation course. A further five courses were held in 2003–2007 with over 6,000 students attending. Three participants from the first course said they would provide farmland for wetland restoration and Taipei frog relocation. By August 2003, the Taipei frog population in the field had more than doubled (from 28 to 85) and the farmer adopted organic-farming practices. Pollution from river construction work resulted in a drastic decline in the population in 2004–2005 (20 to 4), but by 2006 the population appeared to be recovering (19). With the help of the local community, by selling a proportion of a farmer’s crop and paying for any additional expenses, he was persuaded to stop using herbicides and pesticides on his field, which formed the centre of the breeding habitat. Habitat-improvement work was also undertaken with participation from a local school and agricultural foundation.
A replicated study in 2004–2005 of amphibian education in schools in Ljubljana, Slovenia (Tomažič 2008) found that students who were taught using live animals and had previous direct experience of amphibians had the greatest knowledge and knowledge retention. Four months after the lesson, there were no significant differences between pupils taught with pictures and those with no previous experience taught with live animals. Knowledge decreased more rapidly over time in those taught with pictures. Using live animals significantly improved students’ attitudes to species, with or without previous experience. Teaching with pictures significantly improved attitudes only for those that had no previous direct experience of amphibians. Twenty-one classes of 11–12 year-olds from 10 schools were given a 45-minute lesson about amphibians by the same teacher. For 127 pupils, pictures were used. The other 265 pupils handled seven live species of amphibians. Attitude towards and knowledge about amphibians was tested before and one week, two months and four months after the lesson.
A study in 2010–2012 of the Toad Trackers education programme in Houston, USA and Zimbabwe (Rommel 2012) found that over 190 participants completed the course and as a result were more aware of the threats to and conservation of amphibians. Since 2010, 172 participants in the USA and approximately 20 in Zimbabwe completed the course. At the end of the course, 95% of participants could list human threats to amphibians. All participants could identify simple ways they could help amphibians, such as organic gardening, helping with habitat restoration and protection, volunteering for citizen science programmes and educating others. The Houston Zoo Conservation Department developed the programme with professional herpetologists. It was aimed mainly at 8–18 year olds, but also used for teachers, zoo workers and college students. Classroom workshops and field-based experiences covered topics such as amphibian ecological roles, conservation issues, native frog diversity and data collection. At the end of fieldwork, students completed an evaluation.
- Randler C., Ilg A. & Kern J. (2005) Cognitive and emotional evaluation of an amphibian conservation program for elementary school students. Journal of Environmental Education, 37, 43–52
- Bride I.G., Griffiths R.A., Melendez-Herrada A. & McKay J.E. (2008) Flying an amphibian flagship: conservation of the Axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum through nature tourism at Lake Xochimilco, Mexico. International Zoo Yearbook, 42, 116–124
- Chang J.C.-W., Tang H.-C., Chen S.-L. & Chen P.-C. (2008) How to lose a habitat in 5 years: trial and error in the conservation of the farmland green tree frog Rhacophorus arvalis in Taiwan. International Zoo Yearbook, 42, 109-115
- Lin H.-C., Cheng L.-Y., Chen P.-C. & Chang M.-H. (2008) Involving local communities in amphibian conservation: Taipei frog Rana taipehensis as an example. International Zoo Yearbook, 42, 90-98
- Tomažič I. (2008) The influence of direct experience on students’ attitudes to, and knowledge about amphibians. Acta Biologica Slovenica, 51, 39–49
- Rommel R.E. (2012) Toad trackers: amphibians as gateway species to biodiversity stewardship. Herpetological Review, 43, 417–421