With 40% of global amphibian species threatened with extinction, captive breeding programmes are an increasingly important conservation tool. The highest priority species occur in tropical countries, which presents a number of challenges. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 25 practitioners in Latin America, Africa and Asia to investigate how the effectiveness of amphibian captive breeding programmes could be improved. A thematic analysis identified 94 barriers and enablers across 13 themes. We found that existing programmes commonly followed a reactive and often ineffective four-stage operational model. Subsequently, we developed a proactive operational model, using the barriers and enablers identified by this study, to support programme managers in the implementation of effective programmes. Our findings suggest human dimensions are often critical barriers or enablers across all stages of captive breeding programmes. We recommend the development of strategic partnerships between institutions, including zoos, NGOs, governments and captive breeding programmes, to help overcome these critical barriers and improve the effectiveness of global amphibian conservation. This operational model could be translated to captive breeding programmes for other taxa.