Auckland Zoo is celebrating World Frog Day with the launch of a 2021 grants programme to assist amphibian conservation projects in honour of the late Emeritus Professor Phil Bishop - a champion of amphibian conservation here in Aotearoa and around the world.

Every year, through the Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund, the Zoo offers a series of small grants to help advance conservation projects for threatened fauna and flora here in Aotearoa and developing countries as part of its mission to bring people together to build a future for wildlife.

“Tragically, in January this year following a short illness, Emeritus Professor Phil Bishop, from the University of Otago’s Zoology Department, passed away, and New Zealand and rest of the world lost a leading light in amphibian conservation,” says Auckland Zoo’s Head of Animal Care and Conservation and herpetologist, Richard Gibson.

“Phil’s fascination for frogs and toads began as a four-year-old and never left him. As conservation colleagues managing the world’s only Zoo breeding programme for Aotearoa’s Critically Endangered Archey’s frog and regular participants in fieldwork for these tiny enigmatic creatures, our Zoo team experienced first-hand his passion and dedication to frog conservation. Phil’s scientific expertise, paired with his brilliant communication and collaboration skills led him to the forefront of international efforts to save the world’s amphibians – including roles as co-chair of the global International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, and chief scientist for the IUCN Amphibian Survival Alliance.

“Nothing could be more fitting than having Auckland Zoo Conservation Fund’s first 2021 grants round dedicated to conservationists working to ensure a future for frogs and other amphibians,” says Richard.

Today, 43 percent of the world’s amphibians are threatened with extinction by everything from climate change, habitat destruction and pollution, to disease and over-exploitation and the illegal pet trade.

“World Frog Day is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate just how extraordinary frogs and other amphibians are and raise the profile of and support for these too often forgotten creatures. Despite their mostly low profile, they have a giant impact on the planet’s functioning ecosystems - playing crucial roles in the food chain as both predators and prey and are an untapped repository of natural chemicals with medicinal potential.  Amphibians’ sensitive skin and their reliance on both water and land makes them particularly vulnerable, and an important indicator of the state of the planet,” says Richard.

As Emeritus Professor Phil Bishop’s favourite tee-shirt says, ‘Fact – the survival of the planet depends on frogs’ – so on this World Frog Day, leap in and learn more about frogs and why you should care about their survival.

Grant applications details

Applications to receive an amphibian conservation grant for small projects (up to NZ$5000) are invited from New Zealand and any developing country by Tuesday 20 April 2021.Two grants will be awarded specifically to advance the conservation of New Zealand’s endemic frogs. Application forms can be found here