Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Weekly Dose of Cute: Baby Froggies!

A little proof that the mini version of just about anything is cute:

Photo credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS via Zooborns

These little tykes are the Bronx Zoo's newest arrivals: baby Kihansi Spray Toads (Nectophrynoides asperginis). While they might just look like any other toad, this species is unique. Females give birth to fully-formed babies, not eggs like most amphibians. There are no tadpoles here - baby toads come right out of mom looking like mini versions of their parents.

Unfortunately, you can't observe this amazing phenomena in the Kihansi Gorge of Tanzania, where these toads are from, because the Kihansi Spray Toad is extinct in the wild. When a hydroelectric dam was built there in 2000, it destroyed the toad's habitat. The dam is vital to the Tanzanians, as it generates 1/3 of their total electrical supply, but that's no consolation to the Kihansi Spray Toad that, like its name suggests, lived in the mist that used to spray from the many waterfalls that flowed into the gorge.

Realizing the dire situation that these toads were in, the Tanzanian government allowed the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to collect almost 500 toads (a small number of the over 17,000 that were estimated to live there at the time) to begin a breeding program in New York. Now, the toads have vanished from the gorge, due to the loss of habitat and the deadly fungal disease chytridiomycosis, and have been officially listed as extinct in the wild by the IUCN, while the New York colony has expanded to almost ten times it's original number.

The WCS plans to reintroduce the toads back into the gorge within the next few years. A system of sprinklers has been put in place to replicate the toad's habitat that was lost when the dam was built. Eventually, the WCS hopes that the remarkable Kihsani Spray Toad will be able to live where it originated, instead of thousands of miles away in a zoo.


Kevin said...

So, I always feel like a jerk when I wonder this, because it is generally seem as obvious to others; why re-introduce the frogs? Shouldn't the ecosystem be evaluated to see if the frogs' reintroduction would be beneficial enough to warrant the effort of re-introduction (the breeding program that would lead to the ability for a re-introduction, and all that).

It seems like the other members of the ecosystem would rapidly fill the void left by this species.