Archive: Detroit Zoo Celebrates Breeding Success for Critically Endangered Toad

More than 5,000 Puerto Rican crested tadpoles to be released into the wild

July 12, 2017

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society’s (DZS’s) ongoing breeding program for the critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad has produced 5,635 tadpoles. Twenty tadpoles have been retained for future breeding at the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center while the rest are bound for Puerto Rico’s El Tallonal biological reserve on July 12 for release into the wild.

These tadpoles will join the more than 47,000 previously produced at the Detroit Zoo and released over the past decade. The DZS breeding program for the Puerto Rican crested toad, which began in 1999, had a record-breaking year in 2015 when three clutches yielded 22,571 tadpoles.

“Amphibians are in crisis, with nearly half of the world’s known 7,660 species threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, infectious diseases and other factors,” said Dr. Ruth Marcec, director of the National Amphibian Conservation Center. “Bolstering the population of these amphibians in their natural environment is a triumph for conservation.”

The DZS has been a leader in amphibian conservation and engaged in cooperative breeding programs – called Species Survival Plans (SSPs) – for decades through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which is comprised of 231 accredited zoos and aquariums. The Puerto Rican crested toad was the first amphibian to have an SSP, which ensures genetically healthy, diverse and self-sustaining populations of threatened and endangered species.

The Puerto Rican crested toad (Peltophryne lemur) has greenish-brown pebbled skin and marbled golden eyes. It grows 3-4 inches long and has the ability to nearly flatten its body completely to fit into tiny crevices. These toads can be tricky to spot in their habitat at the Detroit Zoo, but visitors can often see their large eyeballs and pointy, hooked noses peering out from under their naturalistic limestone structures.

The National Amphibian Conservation Center opened at the Detroit Zoo in 2000 and was distinguished as the first major facility dedicated entirely to conserving and exhibiting amphibians. Dubbed “Disneyland for toads” by The Wall Street Journal, it houses a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians. The award-winning, state-of-the-art facility is world renowned for amphibian conservation, care, exhibition and research.