Puerto Rican Crested Toad: Bouncing back

A sharp-eyed young boy just might be the person responsible for saving the Puerto Rican Crested Toad from extinction—Donovan Vincent reports in this article for Toronto’s Star.

The animals, native to southern Puerto Rico, were thought to have vanished in the early 1970s, but a researcher on the island met a local high school student who insisted they were on his family farm.

As the story goes, the skeptical researcher went to the boy’s farm and low and behold there they were.

Twenty tadpoles were taken from the pond and brought into captivity. A zoo in Buffalo was the first to get them, the facility later sharing some with Toronto in the early 1980s.

From roughly 300 original toads there are now about 3,000 in the wild in Puerto Rico, all due to conservation efforts.

In concert with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, tadpoles hatched in Toronto are released in Puerto Rico every year to sustain and rebuild the wild population. Toronto has sent 84,000 tadpoles since 1984. (The numbers in the wild are so low because of their high mortality rates).

There are about 830 in captivity among 30 zoos, mostly in North America, including Toronto’s. They’re also in five wetlands in Puerto Rico. The toads and tadpoles are shared to increase gene diversity.

In Puerto Rico the toads breed on the beach in October during hurricane season.

Those ideal mating conditions must be recreated in captivity, explains the Toronto Zoo’s amphibians and reptiles curator Bob Johnson.

In Toronto the toads are conditioned to breed through a manufactured “seasonal change’’ where the temperatures in the room housing them is dropped from 28 C to about 18 C for four weeks. Temperatures are raised again, and the males are placed in tubs of shallow water.

“Rain’’ falls on the toads from water pumped through a wand.

Recorded toad breeding calls are also played. After a day of this the girls are placed in the water with the boys, the girls primed to ovulate from all this stimulation. The boys jump on their backs and latch on. When everything works a female can lay up to 4,000 eggs that typically hatch within 24 hours

For the original report go to http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1158261–puerto-rican-crested-toad-bouncing-back

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