Dr Garcia is among the winners of the world renowned 2018 Sabin Conservation Prizes. Set up by the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, the prizes honour wildlife conservationists for their exceptional efforts to recover endangered species.
He has been awarded the 2018 Sabin Amphibian Conservation Prize for his exceptional efforts to prevent the decline of various frogs, toads, newts and salamanders.
Environmentalist, entrepreneur and founder of the awards, Andy Sabin, said:
“These annual awards are an opportunity to shine the spotlight on conservation champions around the world. Many are working on species that receive very little attention in the mainstream media. By recognising these champions we hope to elevate the importance of their work and how we all benefit from their tireless efforts to preserve the fabric of life on our planet.”
Dr Garcia first started working on amphibian conservation at Barcelona Zoo in 1992. He was instrumental in the early years of a recovery programme for the Mallorcan midwife toad whose numbers were declining alarmingly at the time. The recovery programme saved the species from the brink of extinction and is now considered as a conservation success story.
Since becoming Curator of Lower Vertebrates & Invertebrates at Chester Zoo, Dr Garcia has become involved in a number of amphibian conservation projects across the globe. By combining his expertise in conservation breeding and management and his knowledge in biodiversity surveys in the field, he developed with his team innovative ways to monitor Critically Endangered golden mantella frogs in Madagascar.
The golden mantella frog is an emblematic Madagascan species. However, population size is uncertain and more accurate estimates would help ensure the protection and management of this endemic species. Dr Garcia’s team worked with local NGO Madagasikara Voakajy on a Capture-Mark-Recapture study to estimate the population size in 94 ponds within the Mangabe New Protected Area.
Heavily involved in research, Dr Garcia is also building capacity to conserve Critically Endangered species in multiple countries. He is working with other zoos to secure a future for mountain chicken frogs in Montserrat. Similarly to many amphibian species around the globe, the fungal disease chytridmycosis is one of the main threats to the mountain chicken frog – there is currently no cure and it is very difficult to control its spread.
We are part of an international campaign which aims to save this species and build up numbers on these islands before it’s too late. We are working on both in situ and ex situ projects, including a breeding and research programme.
Dr Garcia also worked with the Catalan government to reintroduce the Monsteny brook newt by breeding the endemic species at the zoo and then releasing individuals in the wild. More recently, he even worked with a group of Mexican Dominican nuns to conserve the achoque, a rare salamander on the brink of extinction due to pollution and over-fishing.
Dr Gerardo Garcia said:
“Amphibians do not always generate a lot of public interest and as a consequence our knowledge of those species and the threats they might face in the wild remains vastly limited. Since the first major comprehensive amphibian assessment dates all of the way back to 2004 more conservation initiatives have started to consider amphibians. I believe that absolutely every species matters and a lot of those frogs, toads, caecilians and salamanders are under threat so amphibian conservation is critical.”
Other winners of the 2018 Sabin Conservation Prizes include Rosalinda Palomo Ramos and Gamaliel Castañeda Gaytán, winners of the 2018 Sabin Turtle Conservation Prize for their work in Mexico, and Andres Link, winner of the 2018 Sabin Primate Prize for his work in Colombia.
The four winners will receive their prestigious prizes at an awards luncheon on June 11, at the Bowery Hotel in New York City.