The Kihansi spray toad, declared extinct in the wild in 2009, is now coming back to life in a big way thanks to a breeding program that allowed thousands of the toads to be reintroduced to their native habitat this week.
The thumbnail-sized toad, Nectophrynoides asperginis, was restricted to the smallest known range for any vertebrate species: a section of waterfall spray in the Kihansi Gorge of the Udzungwa Mountains in south-central Tanzania. The organization Global Wildlife Conservation aided in the effort.
“This represents the first reintroduction of an amphibian species that has been declared Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN,” Ana Denman of the GWC told Discovery News. “Today, 2,000 toads were released, and an additional 500 will be released tomorrow.”
In reference to the specialized biology of the Kihansi spray toad, University of Dar es Salaam professors, Charles Msuya and Kim Howell, one of the scientists to discover the toad in 1996, jointly wrote:
“The Kihansi Spray Toad is unique because of its specialized habitat. It was endemic to Tanzania, in the ‘spray meadows’ at the base of the Kihansi Falls that received more than 70 mm of ‘rain’ per day in the form of spray from the falls prior to the construction of the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project dam. Very few species of amphibians can survive in this habitat. The KST is also unusual because its life cycle does not have a free swimming tadpole stage, but rather, females give birth to tiny froglets.”
The dam construction nearly destroyed the “spray meadow” habitat, contributing to the toad’s downfall. That coincided with the emergence of the amphibian chytrid fungus, a disease that has been implicated in amphibian extinctions in several parts of the world. Thanks to the breeding program, though, there are now some 6,000 of the toads in the world.
“The level of collaboration from the Tanzanian government and the participating zoos, to the Tanzanian field biologists and students who shared their knowledge with us, has been nothing short of inspiring. This is one of the great stories of amphibian conservation,” R. Andrew Odum, curator of herpetology at the Toledo Zoo, was quoted as saying in a press release.
“The Bronx Zoo has been working with our partners, including the Toledo Zoo, for more than a decade to save this species and reintroduce it back into the wild,” Jim Breheny, Executive Vice President and General Director of WCS Zoos & Aquarium and Director of the Bronx Zoo, added. “This landmark occasion is reason to celebrate.”
We agree. Good news about amphibians is hard to come by these days. Hopefully this species can continue to recover.
“The success story of the small Kihansi Spray Toad can teach us big lessons for the future of biodiversity conservation,” co-Chair of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, Claude Gascon, concluded. “While amphibians and other species are incurring severe threats to their survival, it is never too late to use the best science and conservation action to save a species and its habitat.”
“This success story has only been possible with the help and partnership of many organizations around the world and the leadership of the Government of Tanzania, and the belief that no species and no situation is too dire to try to save life on Earth. Extinction in the wild is not forever.” via ‘Extinct’ Frog Back from the Brink