Banks Society Helen Meredith (Zoological Society of London), ‘Amphibian Conservation’

On Thursday 19 January, Helen Meredith of the Zoological Society of London gave a talk to the Banks Society about the conservation of amphibians. As the co-ordinator of the ZLS’s Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project, she developed the amphibian EDGE list, researching the diverse ecological traits and conservation needs for the top 100 EDGE amphibians. Her talk was accompanied by a multitude of amusing photos of stunningly coloured frogs, huge salamanders and grumpy toads. One memorable slide included a quotation from the eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus that succinctly sums up the unfortunate preconception that many of us have of these bizarre creatures: “These foul and loathsome animals are abhorrent because of their cold body, pale colour, cartilaginous skeleton, filthy skin, fierce aspect, calculating eye, offensive smell, harsh voice, squalid habitation, and terrible venom; and so their Creator has not exerted his powers to make many of them.” However, as graphically revealed by one advertisement, amphibians hold a key role in many ecosystems as they curb insect infestations. Yet they have now come under threat, mainly due to deforestation, and many places in the sub-continent are experiencing the consequences. And, for those who believe that natural selection will resolve this situation without consequence to us, be mindful that amphibians hold a prominent position in the developments of the pharmaceuticals industry.

Peregrine Dunn OS (SMM)