Following the news last month that the fatal skin-eating fungus ‘Bsal’ has been confirmed to have reached the UK this months Croaking Science feature outlines some actions that we can all be taking to help reduce the chance that it will infect our wild populations.
The recently discovered deadly species of chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans which translates as salamander skin-eating fungus threatens our native newt populations. The fungus has recently devastated fire salamander population in Netherlands and Belgium in as little as 2-3 years and unfortunately has already entered the UK through the pet trade via newt species imported from SE Asia. While some Asian newt species have evolved with this fungus and they may harbour it without obvious signs of infection, to most European salamanders, including our native great crested newt, the disease is fatal.
The good news is B. salamandrivorans has not been detected in wild populations in the UK, however we must all be really vigilant to ensure this disease is contained and does not spread any further.
What can you do?
Whether you are volunteering on our sites, another site or just visiting a wetland, be vigilant in ensuring your footwear and any pond-dipping or surveying equipment is cleaned thoroughly between visits to different sites. Those of you performing pond survey can find out more about good biosecurity protocols here.
What NOT to do!
If you are an exotic amphibian enthusiast and you keep pet salamanders, please avoid handling wild newts that you may find in your garden as this could possibly introduce the disease into our wild populations. Make sure you do not use any equipment such as nets or tanks from your exotic amphibians in your garden and do not wash such equipment outdoors.
One of our staff was recently asked to move wild newts found in the garden of a volunteer and herp enthusiast who thought he was doing good when he uncovered some great crested newts in his garden by putting them a container of water until they could be transported onto the reserve. Such well-intentioned actions are illegal and risk carrying infection through to wild populations.
If you find newts in your garden
If you uncover newts in your garden when tidying don’t worry, leave them some shelter in the form of logs, overturned pots or vegetation and at night they will disperse when ready. You can register your sightings through the online Dragon Finder app.
Dead or diseased amphibians
If you find dead or diseased amphibians, you can register the sighting with the Garden Wildlife Health project and send a sample.
More information about Chytrid fungus can be found here: