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Charity urges amphibian traders to step up biosecurity
A nationwide investigation found that the UK’s wild newt populations are currently free of Bsal fungus.

ZSL working to prevent Bsal fungus from infecting wild populations

Conservationists are calling on private amphibian traders to enforce strict biosecurity measures to protect the UK’s wild newt population against a deadly flesh-eating fungus.

The call from researchers at the Zoological Society London (ZSL) comes after a nationwide investigation found that the UK’s wild newt populations appear free of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), known to be prevalent in privately-owned amphibians across Western Europe.

Conducted in partnership with the University of Exeter and the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK, the study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Professor Andrew Cunningham, deputy director of science at ZSL and lead author on the paper said: “Identifying potential wildlife health risks before they develop is crucial to protecting species from the potentially devastating impacts of disease.

“Having identified that Bsal appears to be absent from wild newts in the UK, we now need to ensure effective biosecurity policies governing the trade of amphibians into the UK are in place, including adequate quarantine and testing of imported amphibians.”

In the study, researchers combined data gathered from skin swabbing more than 2,400 wild newts in ponds across the UK, along with data from newt deaths reported to ZSL’s Garden Wildlife Health project. The results of the investigations revealed Bsal was not present in the samples collected.

But in 2010 the fungus was responsible for a 99 per cent decline in a monitored population of fire salamanders in the Netherlands, with population declines expanding into Belgium and Germany. The fungus led to the extinction of local populations within months of being introduced.

Dr Becki Lawson, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “We know that infection with Bsal fungus is widespread in captive amphibians in the UK, therefore amphibian owners must take steps to avoid any direct or indirect contact between wild and pet newts, by keeping animals indoors and disinfecting equipment and tanks thoroughly. These actions will help to safeguard the health of both wild and captive amphibians”.
 
“ZSL’s Garden Wildlife Health Project monitors the health of the wildlife found in British gardens, through collating public reports of ill or deceased animals and undertaking subsequent post-mortem examinations. Reports from the public provided crucial information for this study.”

Image (C) ZSL/Julian Smart.

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Endangered turtles rescued from smugglers

News Story 1
 A group of endangered turtles have found a new home at London Zoo after being rescued from smugglers.

The four big-headed turtles arrived at the zoo at the end of last year, after smugglers tried to illegally import them to Canada, labelled as toys.

One of the turtles, named Lady Triệu after a Vietnamese warrioress, has moved to a new exhibit in the zoo’s reptile house. She is the only one of her kind in a UK zoo.

Big-headed turtles have such large heads that they cannot pull them back into their shells. To compensate, they have armour plating from head to tail and a very sharp beak to fend off predators. They are ranked number 18 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence reptile list, which puts threatened species at the forefront of conservation action. Image © ZSL  

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RCVS Fellowship board chair elections get underway

Voting for the 2019 RCVS Fellowship Chair election is now underway. This year four candidates are standing for election, including Dr Robert Huey, Professor John Innes, Professor Liz Mossop and Professor Ian Ramsey.

The Chair will attend and preside over Fellowship meetings and take the lead in consolidating the Fellowship’s position as the learned society of the RCVS. Fellows will receive an email containing a link to the online voting form, as well as candidates’ details and manifestos. Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday, 5 September.