Protecting native amphibians from invasive disease
13th July 2015
A newly-discovered species of chytrid fungal disease that can infect and kill a wide range of newts and salamanders has become established in a few wild amphibian populations in parts of Europe.
The fungus, called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (B.sal), is causing devastating population declines. It is thought to be spread internationally by the amphibian trade and unless all concerned (pet traders, scientists and amphibian keepers) take great care and apply some simple biosecurity measures, there is a risk that it could be introduced to captive and wild amphibian populations elsewhere in Europe. It has already been found in captive newts and salamanders in the UK.
If you keep amphibians, it is important that you ensure disease does not pose a risk to captive or wild amphibians. In addition to B.sal, there are other amphibian diseases that are a cause for concern, including Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and ranaviruses. There are also diseases that we do not yet know about. This leaflet provides information and guidance on protecting amphibians from invasive disease.
If you find sick or dead amphibians
Please report any sick or dead amphibians observed in the wild to Garden Wildlife Health at www.gardenwildlifehealth.org
What else can you do?
Following the advice below will help minimise the risk of inadvertently spreading amphibian diseases within or between captive collections and also to wild populations:
- Never release any (native or exotic) amphibians from captivity into the wild.
- Never transfer wild amphibians between sites. Do not stock ponds with spawn/tadpoles/adult amphibians – they will colonise new ponds naturally (and often surprisingly quickly).
- Do not assume that a healthy looking animal is free of infection; some animals can act as carriers without exhibiting signs of disease. Adopt the precautionary principle and manage all amphibians as if they are infected.
- Know the health status of your collection. Get your animals tested routinely and ensure any dead amphibians are submitted for post mortem examination.
- If dead animals are not submitted for testing, care should be taken when disposing of them. They should be incinerated or buried in such a way that scavenging animals cannot access them.
- Quarantine new arrivals and screen for chytrid infections on arrival. Any positive animals should be treated under veterinary supervision and test negative before being added to your collection.
- Avoid keeping amphibians in outdoor enclosures as they may come into contact with native wild amphibians and infect them with disease agents (even if the captive animals appear healthy).
- Do not clean tanks or vivaria outside where there is a possibility of contaminating areas used by wild animals.
- Disinfect all waste water from amphibian enclosures. Bleach, Virkon, F10 and Anigene are the names of some disinfectants that will kill the majority of amphibian pathogens provided the manufacturers’ guidelines are followed. Once the water is disinfected it should only be discharged down a drain connected to a sewer.
- To avoid spreading disease within a collection, disinfect equipment between enclosures or have dedicated equipment for each enclosure. Equipment and furnishings should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, with waste water discharged into the sewer system.
- Substrates (soil, sand, gravel, etc.) can harbour infections and should be discarded carefully. Ideally these should be sent for incineration by a registered company that can dispose of clinical waste (e.g. those used by veterinary practices). If this is not possible, disinfect and dispose with the household refuse for collection by your local council.
- Register with a veterinary surgeon who has an interest in, and knowledge of, amphibians (see the special interest list on www.bvzs.org) and seek advice on keeping your collection healthy.