Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Kihansi toad's wild ride: from the brink of extinction to human engineered habitat

Captive Kihansi spray toad at Bronx Zoo. Photo courtesy of Rhett A. Butler.
The Kihansi Spray Toad, a dwarf toad, from eastern Tanzania was first discovered by scientists in 1996. 17,000 individuals once occupied a two hectare region of the Kihansi Gorge; the smallest habitat of any vertebrate known to man. Spray from surrounding waterfalls provided a moist micro-habitat for them to grow and reproduce. Just eight years later, the toad had vanished. Construction of a hydroelectric dam, coupled with disease, decimated the Kihansi spray toad population. Luckily, before complete collapse, conservationists from the Bronx Zoo were able to facilitate a population of 499 toads in captivity. This week, researchers decided to release 2,500 Kihansi spray toads back into their natural habitat with the aid of an artificial misting system.
The misting system diverts water from above the Kihansi fall which
provides constant moisture for the frog's habitat. Photo courtesy of
Global Wildlife Conservation.

The conservation of this toad has moved at a miraculous rate and this may be the first time that an extinct species has been re-established in an ecosystem engineered by humans.
Claude Gascon, the co-chair of the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist group remarks, "The success story of the small Kihansi Spray Toad can teach us big lessons for the future of biodiversity conservation. While amphibians and other species are incurring severe threats to survival, it is never too late to use the best science and conservation action to save a species and its habitat."

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