Puerto Rican Crested Toad (Sapo Concho Puertorriqueño)
Through a captive breeding programme, the Buffalo Zoo is helping in the conservation of the Puerto Rican Crested Toad (also known as el sapo concho puertorriqueño or Peltophryne lemur):

The teeny tadpoles are going on a big trip.

The Buffalo Zoo packed up the 46 threatened Puerto Rican crested tadpoles Tuesday for a flight that will take them first to Atlanta and then on to San Juan today for immediate release into the wild.

The Buffalo Zoo is one of seven in North America sending tadpoles during the fall breeding season to help restore the species, which is under assault due to habitat destruction. Thousands have been bred in Buffalo and returned since it began participating in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan more than 20 years ago.

“It’s great to be part of a conservation story as a keeper,” said Penny Felski, herpetology collections manager. “We care about animals, so when we can help the wild ones with their captive counterparts, it’s very rewarding.”

The last several years had been a bust, breedingwise, she said, probably because the adult toads were getting up there in years. “We’re really excited that we actually get to ship some tadpoles this year,” Felski said.

Before leaving the zoo, the tadpoles darted around clay pot pieces, plants, cork bark and coconut huts in their holding tanks. The objects offer additional surface area for the growth of algae, which the tadpoles eat.

The successful breeding took a lot of planning, beginning with simulating a rainy season. Hormone therapy also was used to get the females to lay their eggs and the males to release their sperm.

The mother was seven years old, the father four. Females are bigger, weighing an average of 90 to 100 grams, with males typically tipping the scales at around 30 to 40 grams.

Zookeepers put the toads through a hibernation period by cooling their body temperatures and reducing food intake so they will stay dormant for a week or so. Then, they started warming them, got them eating and bathed them to remove possible fungi that could be introduced into the wild.

A rainy season was simulated with recorded toad calls and a rain bar that sprinkled water.

The little tadpoles zipping around were proof of a mission accomplished.

Read more in the full article from the Buffalo News and at the Zoo’s website. The Zoo’s work is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® programme.

The Puerto Rican Crested Toad has been classified as critically endangered (see also).

Some previous similar stories on Green Antilles: A conservation success story: the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, Mountain chickens coming home to Montserrat, and Philadelphia Zoo helping to conserve Haitian frogs.

[Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region]

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