AMPHIBIAWEB

ZOOS PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN AMPHIBIAN CONSERVATION

by Kevin Zippel


Watch Kevin Zippel of Amphibian Ark discussing amphibian declines.



Amphibians are in desperate need of concerted help from the zoological community, perhaps more now than any other class of vertebrates (Peterson 1996, Zippel and Snider 2001). Numerous populations of amphibians around the world are declining, some to the brink of extinction and beyond (see the Amphibian Declines page). This taxon is suffering an extinction crisis the likes of which some believe has not been seen since the Jurassic/Cretaceous dinosaur extinctions, which of course the amphibians survived. There are four vital needs in amphibian conservation: some amphibian species require immediate sanctuary in captivity to see them through this extinction crisis, most need research on their biology in the lab and field, all species would benefit from education of the general public regarding their value and plight, and of utmost importance, all species must have some protection within their natural habitats. While a few biologists view captive breeding as a last-resort conservation action or even a trivial pursuit (e.g., Marcellini 1994), the IUCN (see pdf) endorses captive breeding as a proactive conservation measure, one that should be initiated while a species is still available to allow for a husbandry learning curve. Amphibians are even considered by some as ideal candidates for such programs (Bloxam and Tonge 1995, Marsh and Trenham 2001, Trenham and Marsh 2002, Wiese and Hutchins 1994, but see Dodd and Seigel 1991, Seigel and Dodd 2002).

This document attempts to summarize the multitude of ways zoos are striving and struggling to meet these vital needs of amphibians (see also Maruska 1986 for a discussion of select programs to that date), and to reiterate the charge of Chiszar et al. (1993) for further zoo/academia collaborations.

Table of Contents

  1. Overcoming historic hurdles: lack of cooperation among zoos
    1. Collaborative organizations, North America
    2. Collaborative organizations, foreign and international.
  2. Overcoming historic hurdles: taxonomic bias
  3. Species-Specific Conservation Programs
  4. Basic research (independent of species-specific conservation programs)
  5. Financial support
  6. Training and education (independent of species-specific conservation programs)
  7. A source of captive-bred animals
  8. Conclusions
  9. References

I. Overcoming historic hurdles: lack of cooperation among zoos.

Modern zoos operate with amazing synergy, as conservation programs typically draw on the wealth of experiences and resources of diverse staff members from multiple institutions. For example, the Puerto Rican crested toad SSP program comprises ~23 institutions and a steering committee of 9 members from 8 institutions who guide the activities of the program. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find a successful zoo conservation program that doesn’t involve multiple institutions, zoo or otherwise. But this pervasive atmosphere of multi-institutional collaboration was not always the status quo. Historically, zoos tended to measure their success by being the first to acquire and/or breed a new species. As such, they did not always share animals and information freely, likely to the detriment of progress with their programs. This institutional egocentrism began to change in North America in 1924 with the establishment of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (now known as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association or AZA), a common governing body that, among other responsibilities (see below), fosters (and requires!) inter-institutional collaboration. Similar umbrella organizations exist in Europe and Australia, and a new IUCN international group aims to facilitate cooperation with the captive-breeding and other conservation efforts of all zoos around the world (see below).

A. Collaborative organizations, North America.

The AZA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of North American zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation (read more at www.aza.org). Our 214 accredited members are zoos and aquariums throughout North America that have met AZA's rigorous accreditation standards, setting them far apart from circuses and roadside zoos. Accreditation is a detailed review and inspection process covering all aspects of an institution's operation, including the animal collection, veterinary care, physical facilities, safety, security, finance, staff, governing authority, support organization, involvement in education, conservation, and research, and adherence to AZA policies. The AZA Conservation and Science Department coordinates, facilitates and promotes the work of the AZA member institutions, who participate in over 700 cooperative conservation and management programs, including 106 Species Survival Plan® programs, 282 Population Management Plans, more than 400 studbooks, 46 Taxon Advisory Groups, 9 Conservation Action Partnerships, and 13 Scientific Advisory Groups. Through these programs, AZA assists its members in managing their captive populations and conducting and overseeing zoo and aquarium-based and field-based conservation, research and education projects.

The AZA Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group (ATAG) is a consortium of zoo biologists working on management issues for amphibians, coming together to share information and collectively create a programmatic agenda for the AZA. The ATAG produces a Regional Collection Plan (RCP) to evaluate which taxa are in need of captive management, conduct space surveys to determine how many taxa can reasonably be managed, and make recommendations for the selection of appropriate species for AZA conservation programs. Annual ATAG meetings also provide a forum for discussing husbandry, veterinary, conservation, research, ethical, and other issues. Our primary goals, action plan, etc. are available at www.detroitzoo.org/atag.

2007 edit: See also the Amphibian Ark (AArk) web site.

B. Collaborative organizations, foreign and international.

The American programs are just one component of the global conservation effort. Europe (http://www.eaza.net/) and Australia ( www.arazpa.org.au/TAG_Reptiles.htm) have their own equivalents of the AZA ATAG and are leading exemplary model programs for amphibian conservation, e.g., the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s work with the Mallorcan midwife toad (Alytes muletensis) in Spain and Melbourne Zoo’s rescue of Romer’s treefrog (Chirixalus romeri) in Hong Kong (see accounts below). The Federation of Zoos ( www.zoofederation.org.uk/) raises the bar even higher for zoos in Great Britain and Ireland, setting mandatory standards that are amongst the highest in the world. A newly formed Captive Breeding Liaison Group for the IUCN Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force (DAPTF, www.open.ac.uk/daptf/) is being coordinated by staff at the Chester Zoo in the U.K. This group will hopefully coordinate the captive-breeding and other conservation efforts of all zoos in accordance with recommendations based on the Global Amphibian Assesment. The GAA is a comprehensive document, produced by the IUCN Global Amphibian Specialist Group (GASG) and Conservation International, in which regional experts assess the status of all of the world's described amphibian species.

II. Overcoming historic hurdles: taxonomic bias.

Although zoos continue to expend the majority of their resources on the charismatic megafauna - a omission born from anthropomorphism and perceived public preference - amphibians are beginning to receive a larger portion of the lion’s share. No longer are amphibians uniformly relegated to the dark recesses of reptile buildings!

Several approaches have been adopted, including placing an increased emphasis on amphibians in integrated herp collections, hosting traveling amphibian exhibits, and designating dedicated amphibian facilities. More and more zoo herp (combined reptile and amphibian) facilities are emphasizing amphibians in their collections and programs. The Cincinnati Zoo (Maruska 1986, 1994), the National Aquarium in Baltimore (Cover et al. 1994), and Ian Hiler of the Steinhart Aquarium (formerly) and the Aquarium of the Americas (currently) (Hiler 1985) have always had robust amphibian collections and programs and have documented their work in publications. In 2000, the Toledo Zoo built an embedded facility called Frog Town to highlight native species.

Several zoos have hosted temporary amphibian exhibits. The Shedd Aquarium developed a traveling amphibian exhibit in 1996 that went on to Minnesota and several other zoos. In 2000, the Aquarium of the Americas developed a prototype traveling frog exhibit that has been on display there since; a second version, developed in 2001, is currently on tour and has been to the Cincinnati Zoo and the Worcester Ecotarium. In 2002, Moody Gardens opened a temporary exhibit in their rainforest building called Toadally Frogs; although downscaled in 2004 to allow room for another temporary exhibit, 12 dedicated exhibits remain and plans are in development to create a traveling version of the display. Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland developed another traveling amphibian exhibit that is currently making rounds through museums on the east coast.

In 1980, the Columbus Zoo opened the first dedicated amphibian building, a renovated storage facility, which unfortunately closed in 1989. In 1998, the San Antonio Zoo opened The Pad, a renovated desert building, where they were the first to breed Asian spadefoot toads of the genus Megophrys . In 2000, the Detroit Zoo opened the first facility designed and constructed specifically for amphibians, the National Amphibian Conservation Center (Snider and Zippel 2000). In 1993 the Melbourne Zoo opened The World of Frogs, the only dedicated amphibian facility outside of the US. There is, however, a privately owned amphibian breeding facility being developed in the United Arab Emirates - Al Falah Breeding Centre located in Sharjah, owned and established by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Salim Al Qassimi, member of the ruling family of Sharjah.

And are these ectotherm exhibitions well received by a mammal-centric public? Yes! When Detroit’s NACC opened in the summer of 2000, lines at the building entrance regularly exceeded 100 guests, and zoo attendance during the subsequent three months rose 22% above the same time period in the previous year. The Wall Street Journal called the NACC “Disneyland for frogs.” Moody Gardens reports an almost identical increase in attendance in the month their exhibit opened. Chad Peeling of Reptiland offered: “Our exhibit is currently at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and going gangbusters. They are selling tickets for timed entry and have sold out most weekends since opening in May. AMNH administration said that ‘Frogs’ is shaping up to be one of the most popular exhibits in the museum's history. They've also gotten terrific press with pieces in the New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Today, CNN, Associated Press, and a bunch of New York regional TV syndicates.”

III. Species-Specific Conservation Programs.

The following is a list of intensively managed, species-specific programs that illustrate how zoos contribute to amphibian science and conservation. In more-or-less chronologic order of organized zoo involvement, the programs are:

Japanese Giant Salamander (Andrias japonicus) [1971-present]

Status: USFWS Endangered, IUCN Near Threatened, CITES I

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo (zippelk[at]yahoo[dot]com)

Contact person: overall project: Haruo Otsu, Asa Zoo(otsu[at]asazoo[dot]jp) or zoo: Diane Barber, Ft. Worth Zoo (dbarber[at]fortworthzoo[dot]org)

Asa Zoo in Hiroshima, Japan has been working with the Japanese giant salamander since 1971. Efforts include rescue of animals from degraded habitat, in and ex situ studies, and captive breeding. Captive breeding has occurred annually since 1979 and has resulted in 1000s of offspring and detailed descriptions of reproductive biology (Kuwabara et al. 1989). No reintroduction or restocking has been done to date. A number of offspring have been imported to AZA institutions, but no breeding has yet occurred in the US. Maruska (1986) at the Cincinnati Zoo reviewed husbandry and propagation of the Japanese giant salamander.

A newly formed AZA group, the Cryptobranchid Interest Group (CIG) , aims to work towards the conservation of cryptobranchids through cooperative program building, in and ex situ research, information exchange, and increasing public and political awareness. This group provides funds to Sumio Okada, a Japanese biologist studying movement patterns and population structure in A. japonicus. The National Zoo also helps to financially support Sumio’s work.



© 1996 Brad Moon

Ozark Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) [1975-present]

Status: not classified

Summarized by: Ron Goellner, St. Louis Zoo (goellner[at]stlzoo[dot]org)

Contact person: Ron Goellner, St. Louis Zoo (goellner[at]stlzoo[dot]org)

The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is the largest species of salamander native to North America. Two subspecies of hellbender are currently recognized. The Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus a. bishopi) is restricted to the Ozark Plateau of south-central Missouri and northern Arkansas and inhabits streams and rivers that are part of the Black - White River drainage system. Like many other species of aquatic wildlife, the hellbender’s populations have been negatively affected by a number of human activities (stream impoundment, pollution, siltation, etc.). The St. Louis Zoo has been working with hellbenders since 1975 when they exhibited a pair of Ozark animals and manipulated their photoperiod and water temperature to bring them into reproductive condition. In the mid-80s the zoo worked with Eric Routman, then a grad student at Washington University doing his PhD work on a genetic analysis of hellbenders. When Eric started, he needed help with collecting sites and techniques so the zoo helped him out in his initial endeavors. Then, in the early 90s when word started filtering in that the hellbender populations in Arkansas were disappearing, a concerned Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) asked the zoo to help with a brief survey in the Current, Jack's Fork and North Fork of the White rivers. The result of the survey concluded that they apparently were doing fine in Missouri. However, five years later we started seeing the same problems Arkansas had experienced, with a 70% - 85% decline within the past ten years. At the current rate, it will not be long before the hellbender is extirpated from Missouri and Arkansas, which means extinction for the Ozark hellbender. The zoo has teamed up with a number of concerned organizations, including the MDC and USFWS, in an effort to save Ozark hellbenders. The zoo’s Hellbender Conservation Center (HCC) is working on developing effective husbandry protocols for the care and reproduction of this native amphibian. If we are successful, the zoo would be in a position to headstart young hellbenders for future reintroductions into historic hellbender streams that have been declared suitable for repatriation by the MDC. The zoo is currently rearing about 150 young hellbenders (both C. a. bishopi and “C. a. alleganiensis”). Some of these animals will be used by grad students at St. Louis University and Southern Missouri State University for behavioral research on predator recognition (game fish, currently being introduced throughout the state by MDC) from visual and olfactory cues. When they are large enough to take a transmitter, some might be released to monitor their ability to survive after captive rearing. The HCC also supports evaluations of hellbender stream quality and hellbender health issues in the wild. Zoo sponsored research dealing with water quality analysis, endocrine disruption and hematology is being carried out by Dr. Yue-wern Huang (University of Missouri-Rolla). Public awareness concerning the plight of the hellbender is being spearheaded by the MDC.

A newly formed AZA group, the Cryptobranchid Interest Group (CIG), aims to work towards the conservation of cryptobranchids through cooperative program building, in-situ and ex-situ research, information exchange, and increasing public and political awareness. This group provides funds to Jeff Humphries, a Clemson University biologist studying various elements of hellbender populations and habitats in South Carolina.


Houston Toad (Bufo houstonensis) [1978-1988]

Status: USFWS Endangered, IUCN Endangered

Summarized by: Paul Crump, Houston Zoo pcrump[at]houstonzoo[dot]org

Contact person: overall project: Andy Price Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (andy[dot]price[at]tpwd[dot]state[dot]tx[dot]us) or zoo: Stan Mays, Houston Zoo (stanmays[at]aol[dot]com)

Originally described in 1953, the Houston toad is found in association with the deep sandy soils and the Post Oak Savannah vegetation regions of east-central Texas. The toad declined sharply in distribution and abundance primarily because of Texas' severe drought in the 1950s and secondarily because of loss of habitat from land development. It was placed on the original Endangered Species List in 1965. In 1977, Dr. David Jameson of the University of Houston completed a thorough analysis of the critical habitat and conducted a population survey for the Houston toad in the Greater Houston Area. The results indicated the extinction of the toad from Harris County. The following year the Houston Zoo began a captive propagation/release and relocation program that continued for 10 years. As only one population of Houston toad was known to exist at that time in Bastrop County, the Recovery Team identified the need for a satellite population to be established. The Attwater Prairie

National Wildlife Refuge (which is within the historical range of the toad) was used as the satellite population release site. From 1983 to 1987, 372,506 Houston toads of different life stages were released at the Wildlife Refuge. During the first four years of the program all toads were toe clipped before release. Those released during the final year were not as it was felt toe clipping might have contributed to poor toad survival. Problems encountered and overcome during the course of the program were the initial captive breeding of the toad, water quality issues, captive larval and toadlet mortality due to dietary deficiencies, and released toadlet mortality due to red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) predation. Unfortunately, a lack of funds prevented additional field surveys and halted captive propagation by the Houston Zoo. However, recent surveys have indicated that, as of 2003, wild populations have been discovered in 9 additional counties in east-central Texas. The population in Bastrop County is considered relatively stable, benefiting from both State and Federal protection. No wild populations have been found in any county in the Greater Houston Area. Although several clutches were found at Attwater following the releases, the population did not persist. For additional information see Harwell and Quinn (1982), Quinn (1980), Quinn et al. (1989), and Seal (1994).


Puerto Rican Crested Toad (Bufo lemur) [1980-present]

Status: USFWS Threatened, IUCN Critically Endangered, AZA SSP

Summarized by: Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo (bjohnson[at]torontozoo[dot]ca)

Contact person: Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo (bjohnson[attorontozoo[dot]ca)

The crested toad is endemic to Puerto Rico and Virgin Gorda. Historical changes to its habitat since Spanish settlement include clearing of coastal areas and draining of wetlands for agricultural use. The introduction of rats, mongoose and the large marine toad (Bufo marinus) might also have contributed to crested toad decline. Thought to be extinct until 1967, a small breeding population of crested toads was discovered in northwest Puerto Rico (near Quebradillas) and subsequently in a seasonally flooded parking lot in the southwest (Guanica Forest Preserve). No toads have been seen in the northern population since 1989; they had no protected or natural breeding areas and were only known to breed in large concrete cattle troughs or tanks. Southern populations are only found in the Guanica Forest Preserve and have only one natural breeding pond. The southern population is estimated to be no more then 300 animals. Captive work with this species began in 1980 at the Mayaguez Zoo; offspring produced there in 1980-81 were sent to US zoos, including Buffalo Zoo where they first bred in 1983. An SSP was formed in 1983, using the USFWS Recovery Plan to set conservation priorities, with the goal of assisting Puerto Ricans in their recovery of this unique and beautiful toad. Efforts include education and habitat restoration programs. The SSP is supporting high school students who look for toads and study ponds in the northern part of Puerto Rico and have a special biology club with the toad as their logo. The 23 zoos and aquaria in the SSP along with our Puerto Rican partners including teachers, students, the Guanica Forest Manager, the Puerto Rican DNR and USFWS, construct new ponds for toads; install gates and signs to protect the breeding beach; print conservation booklets, bumper stickers and decals for students and interpretive centers; work with the local Juan Rivero Zoo in Mayaguez to help in their conservation programs for Puerto Rican wildlife, including the toad; and support research on toad habitats and diseases by Puerto Rican graduate students and veterinarians. In captivity, the toads are managed genetically to ensure a diverse assurance population in case of unexpected loss of the small Guanica population and its single breeding pond. Captive-bred tadpoles are sent back to Puerto Rico for release to the wild with the goal of establishing at least 5 backup populations. Two artificial release ponds have been constructed to receive the captive bred tadpoles. Releases began in 1983 with 75 toadlets. About 100,000 tadpoles have been released over the last 10 years. In 2003 the first adult toads released as captive bred tadpoles returned to breed in the constructed ponds. Toronto Zoo biologists are also studying hormonal induction of spermiation in male toads comparing 2 analogs of LHRH and hCG. For additional information, see Paine (1984, 1989) and Johnson (1994).



© 2003 Chris Mattison

Mallorcan Midwife Toad (Alytes muletensis) [1985-present]

Status: IUCN Vulnerable

Summarized by: Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo , (K.Buley[at]chesterzoo[dot]co[dot]uk) and Richard Griffiths, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology , (R.A.Griffiths@ukc.ac.uk)

Contact person: Gerardo Garcia, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust , (gerardo[dot]garcia[at]durrell[dot]org)

This species was described from fossils on the island of Mallorca in 1979. It was presumed to have gone extinct sometime in the preceding 2000 years when predatory snakes (Natrix maura) and competing anurans (Rana perezei) were introduced to the island. However, several relict populations were discovered in remote mountains on the island in 1980, and state and regional laws were quickly enacted to forbid the capture, keeping, or killing of this species. The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT, then the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust) and the Mallorcan Consellaria d’Agriculturai Pesca (CDAP) formed a conservation program in 1985 that came to include in and ex situ studies, captive breeding and releases, and range-country education. The first reintroduction of captive-bred toads occurred in 1989, when, at the request of the Mallorcan government, 76 tadpoles were returned to the island and released at two historic localities chosen by the CDAP. Since then, releases of both young toads and larvae have occurred on a nearly annual basis, using animals from a number of the institutions breeding them. Follow-up surveys revealed tadpoles at the release sites, indicating that released captive-bred toads had successfully established. Captive husbandry continues today at DWCT, Open University, Barcelona Zoo, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent (DICE), Marineland Park in Mallorca, Stuttgart Museum and Stuttgart Zoo. To date, release of captive-bred stock has led to a doubling of the range and the number of reproductive populations, with 25% of wild toads originating from captivity. It is thought that there are currently between 1000 and 3000 animals in the wild. As of 2002, reintroductions have ceased pending detailed genetic analyses of all populations. DICE staff members are researching the impacts of introduced predators, as well as fitness and genetic issues concerning the captive, reintroduced and wild populations. A manuscript in press indicates natural responses to predators seem to have been retained by captive toads through several generations of captive breeding, although there is some evidence of loss of fitness and inbreeding, which needs serious consideration. Educational initiatives include displays about the species at two museums on Mallorca (one at Lluc and the other Valldemossa), and staff from the Mallorcan Conselleria also lecture on the toads at local schools on a regular basis. For additional information, see Buley and Garcia (1997), Mallison (1998), and Buley and Gonzalez (2000).



© 2003 Alexander Haas

Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita) [1980s-present]

Status: Britain Endangered, IUCN Least Concern

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo , (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us)

Contact person: overall project: John Buckley, Herpetological Conservation Trust , (john.buckley[at]herpconstrust[dot]org[dot]uk) or zoo: Emma Hutchins, Marwell Zoo , (emmah[at]marwell[dot]org[dot]uk)

The natterjack toad has been declining since the early 1900s due primarily to loss of habitat from anthropogenic and successional changes. Recovery efforts involve intensive habitat management and restoration with subsequent reintroductions. The reintroduction program has been highly successful in establishing new toad populations, with at least 6 of 20 reintroductions clearly resulting in new robust populations with another 8 moving promisingly in that direction (Denton et al. 1997). The majority of releases involved translocating wild tadpoles, in some cases head-started. There have been some releases of captive-bred stock, primarily from private breeders, but the Marwell Zoo has had some successful breeding and releases. In 1997, Marwell produced ~16,000 tadpoles, which were released at two existing heathland reintroduction sites. For additional information, see Raw and Pilkington (1988), Edgar (1990), Banks et al. (1994), and Denton et al. (1997).



© 2001 Arie van der Meijden

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) [1986-present]

Status: IUCN Least Concern

Summarized by: Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo, (K[dot]Buley[at]chesterzoo[dot]co[dot]uk)

Contact person: Gerardo Garcia, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust , (gerardo[dot]garcia[at]durrell[dot]org)

The agile frog is distributed widely throughout much of southern and central Europe, but is found in only a few northern locations including Jersey - the frog is not found elsewhere in the British Isles. The Jersey population has been declining in both range and numbers since the early 1900’s. In the 1970’s only seven localities were listed where the frog could still be found, and by the mid 1980’s this had fallen to only two natural sites. In 1987 one of the remaining two populations was lost as a result of a lethal spill of agricultural pesticide into the breeding pond. The species is now believed to be confined to a single fragile population at L'Ouaisné Common in the southwest of the island. A collaborative program incorporating captive-breeding, reintroduction and habitat management, and involving the Herpetology Department of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), The States of Jersey Planning and Environment Committee, Environmental Services Unit (ESU) and the Société Jersiaise, Zoology Section, has sought to arrest this potentially terminal decline in wild frog numbers. In 1986 the DWCT was asked by the Conservation Officer of the Island Development Committee (IDC) (now Planning and Environment Committee, P&EC) to head-start wild spawn; Durrell received spawn from L’Ouaisné in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1992, and released more than 300 froglets over those years. Similar head-starting techniques have been employed in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In addition to head-starting, the program involves captive maintenance and breeding of an assurance population, which hedges against extirpation of the wild population and generates surplus tadpoles and frogs for reintroduction into existing, and potential, new sites. To this end, there are 5-6 captive/semi-captive populations in outdoor enclosures around the island, with an estimated total population of 50 adult animals. Although it is difficult to track the success of tadpoles released for reintroduction, in areas of the island suitable for frogs but not currently inhabited by them, introduced animals have become established, as evidenced by new egg masses in subsequent years. For additional information, see Gibson and Freeman (1997).



© 2003 Alexander Haas

European treefrog (Hyla arborea) [1988-present]

Status: Latvia Endangered

Summarized by: Ilze Dunce, Riga Zoo, (lzedunce[at]hotmail[dot]com)

Contact person: Ilze Dunce, Riga Zoo , (ilzedunce[at]hotmail[dot]com)

The amphibian department of Riga Zoo was founded in 1988 as The Laboratory of Ecology. The main task was the reintroduction of European tree frog (Hyla arborea) in Latvia. This species disappeared from Latvia over the past century due to habitat modification/fragmentation and the extinction of the beaver, which created vital wetland habitat. Beavers have been reintroduced and are now widespread throughout the country. Riga has captive-bred about 5,000 froglets to date, and released them into suitable habitat. At the present, there is again a stable native population in Latvia. For additional information, see Zvirgzds (1995, 1998).



© 1996 Henk Wallays

Emperor Newt (Tylototriton shanjing) [1989-present]

Status: IUCN Near Threatened, AZA PMP

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo , (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dto]us)

Contact person: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo , (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dto]us)

The emperor newt is endemic to the Yunnan Province, China where it is protected under Schedule II, Species Subject to Local Key Protection. It is not currently classified by CITES, USDI, or IUCN. Wild population numbers are unknown, but due to the limited range, habitat destruction, human consumption, the kill-on-sight policy of some locals, and continued smuggling into the international pet trade, T. shanjing is at considerable risk of becoming extinct in the wild. This species was first reported in AZA institutions in 1980. Since that time, there have been reports of 439 (36.49.354) wild-caught animals, 34 (4.2.28) animals of unknown origin, 8 (0.0.8) possibly wild-bred captive-hatched animals (female oviposited in pet store), and 564 (3.8.553) captive-hatched animals, for a total of 1045 (43.59.943) animals shared among 46 accredited institutions. The first breeding took place in Detroit in 1989, and the majority of subsequent breeding activity has occurred there. Since 1989, Detroit has had 16 breeding events involving at least 6 different females yielding 296 metamorphs, of which 236 were sent out to 19 other zoos. A large shipment of hundreds of wild-caught T. shanjing was confiscated by USFWS in 1996; many of the animals were dead or died shortly thereafter. Approximately 100 were placed in AZA institutions and many have since produced progeny. They have bred numerous times at Detroit, Baltimore, and Toronto. Currently, T. shanjing is the most widely held caudate in AZA institutions, and the captive population is managed as a Population Management Plan (PMP) by the Detroit Zoo. The knowledge we have gained by working with this species has been critical to our success in developing a breeding program for the related yet lesser-known Anderson’s newt (Echinotriton andersoni). Plans are in place to acquire several specimens of the IUCN Critically Endangered Chinhai newt (E. chinhaiensis). For additional information, see Zippel (2002b).


Texas Aquifer Salamanders (Eurycea spp.) [1990-present]

Status: Federally Endangered (E. rathbuni, E. sosorum), Federally Threatened (E. nana), IUCN Vulnerable (E. nana, E. rathbuni)

Summarized by: David Roberts, Dallas Zoo , (graphicsman2001[at]yahoo[dot]com), Lynn Ables, Dallas Aquarium, Dave Schleser, (formerly) Dallas Aquarium

Contact person: David Roberts, Dallas Zoo , (graphicsman2001[at]yahoo[dot]com) or Dee Ann Chamberlain, City of Austin , (dee‑ann.chamberlain[at]ci[dot]austin[dot]tx[dot]us)

Salamanders have generally received little attention from U.S. Zoos, and troglobitic salamanders in particular have been almost entirely ignored. Unfortunately, these denizens of caves and aquifers are coming under increasing pressure from human activities. Recreational cave exploration, pollution of groundwater, and changes in the level of the water table from heavy use are altering their extremely limited habitats, and in some cases, salamanders are literally being pumped up from underground through wells. Several species are now classified as Endangered, Threatened, or Vulnerable. The Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park have enjoyed some breeding success of aquifer salamanders using flow-through systems fed by a well ~300 miles north of the Edwards Plateau aquifer. Both the Barton Springs salamander (E. sosorum) (in 1995) and the Texas blind salamander (E. rathbuni) (many occurences) were bred in simple aquaria setup in this manner. Staff members also introduced animals into an “artificial aquifer upwelling” consisting of a 5-gallon aquarium atop and confluent with a 4’ tall, 6” diameter acrylic tube filled with limestone shards. Water from a natural well is pumped into the bottom of the cylinder and overflows at the top of the aquarium. The Texas salamander (Eurycea neotenes) was bred in such a system every year from 1993 to 1995 (Roberts et al. 1995). Unfortunately, eggs were typically deposited on rocks within the acrylic tube, and removing them required pulling out all the rocks above. Eurycea sosorum did not breed under these conditions. Since 1995, salamanders kept in the upwelling tanks have bred fairly consistently, while those animals maintained in barren aquaria have not bred. Although, Cincinnati Zoo, the first in the country to breed E. rathbuni, did so in bare-bottomed closed-system tanks (Maruska 1982). Detroit has bred E. rathbuni 3 times since 2000: twice in a closed-system exhibit with gravel and rocks, and once in a closed-system bare-bottomed aquarium with Java moss (K. Zippel pers. com.). Detroit has also bred E. neotenes on 2 occasions in a simulated cave-entrance setup with water flowing from a dark cave end through a twilight zone and out the lighted cave entrance (K. Zippel pers. com.). The City of Austin began working on a captive-breeding program for the Austin blind salamander (E. waterlooensis) and E. sosorum in 2000 at a temporary facility at the University of Texas; so far they have only successfully reproduced the latter species. Plans are in place to add E. tonkawae to the collection as well.


Romer's Treefrog (Chirixalus romeri) [1992-1997]

Status: IUCN Endangered, Hong Kong Protected

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo , (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo , (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Romer’s treefrog was known from 3 islands near Hong Kong. In 1991, wild populations were estimated at ~1300. However, WWF-Hong Kong noted that the imminent construction of a new Hong Kong international airport threatened to extirpate the frogs from 1 of the islands, Chek Lap Kok. Assurance populations were established at the University of Hong Kong and the Melbourne Zoo. Thirty frogs were transferred to Melbourne in April 1992 for maintenance and breeding. The program was quite successful; through breeding and husbandry, valuable life history data were collected by zoo staff (Banks 1996). Once new release sites on the Hong Kong islands and New Territories on the mainland had been identified through an ecological study by the University of Hong Kong, funded by the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, 439 frogs bred at Melbourne were returned in 1994 and a further 260 in 1995. Follow-up studies revealed that the released frogs were established and breeding at seven of the eight field sites at least five years post-release (Dudgeon and Lau 1999). Since 1997, no additional plans are in place to send frogs back to the wild from Melbourne.


Sharp-Snouted Day or Torrent Frog (Taudactylus acutirostris) [1993-1995]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered, Australia Endangered

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[at]org[at]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo , (cbanks[at]zoo[at]org[at]au)

The sharp-snouted day frog is restricted to montane, fast-flowing streams in far-north-east Australia and suffered massive declines over the mid-late 1980’s and early 1990s. In early 1993, Queensland agencies decided to remove all remaining frogs from the wild and approached a number of zoos and universities to try and establish a captive population. This included small batches of tadpoles and a handful of frogs to Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo. Half the tadpoles died before metamorphosis and the rest during or post-metamorphosis. One frog at Melbourne was raised to almost two years of age before dying. Chytrid fungus was subsequently determined as the major cause of death (Banks and McCracken 2002). The status of the species in the wild remains unclear; none has been seen since 1997, and extinction is already likely.


Roseate Frog (Geocrinia rosea) [1994-1997]

Status: not classified

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[at]org[at]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo , (cbanks[at]zoo[at]org[at]au)

The Action Plan for Australian Frogs includes two species in the genus Geocrinia: G. alba (white-bellied frog) and G. vitellina (orange-bellied frog) (Tyler et al. 1997). These are listed as Endangered and Vulnerable, respectively, in Australia, and as Critically Endangered and Vulnerable, respectively, by the IUCN. Both these species have been the subject of a coordinated attention by national and state agencies in Australia since 1995. Melbourne Zoo was asked by Western Australian agencies in early 1994 to develop husbandry protocols for the related, and common, G. rosea, with the view of applying that knowledge to the two threatened species should that become necessary in the future. Small groups of frogs and spawn were received by the Zoo in 1994. Although successful breeding was not achieved, much useful data were obtained on growth, behavior, and egg-laying (Birkett et al. 1999). The project concluded in 1997 when the Recovery Team decided to refocus the overall program.



© 2004 Franco Andreone

Tomato Frog (Dyscophus antongilii) [1994-present]

Status: IUCN Vulnerable, CITES I

Summarized by: Vicky Poole, Baltimore Zoo , (vapoole[at]aol[dot]com)

Contact person: Vicky Poole, Baltimore Zoo, (vapoole[at]aol[dot]com)

The tomato frog ranges narrowly along the northeastern coast of Madagascar from Antongil Bay south to Andevoranto. It is endangered as a result of deforestation and over-collecting for the pet trade. In an effort to preserve the species in captivity, the Baltimore Zoo spearheaded a collaborative effort in 1994 by arranging for shipment of tomato frogs to the University of California at Berkeley from the Chaffee Zoological Gardens of Fresno, Ft. Worth Zoological Park, Sedgwick County Zoo, Woodland Park Zoological Gardens, and two private collections. There, under the direction of Dr. Dale Denardo, researchers successfully induced reproduction utilizing hormones, producing 255 froglets from two spawnings. The Baltimore Zoo received 14 of these offspring in December of 1994 and successfully bred their tomato frogs naturally, through environmental manipulation, as the use of hormones can sometimes produce adverse side effects. The frogs produced from the Baltimore spawning have been placed in the collections of other U.S. zoological institutions with the intention of pairing them with frogs from different bloodlines when they become available. In addition to captive reproduction efforts, Baltimore was actively involved in several other tomato frog conservation projects. For example, to educate the Malagasy people on the plight of this endangered species and to combat the challenges of insufficient genetic diversity in the captive U.S. zoo population, Baltimore funded the construction of a tomato frog exhibit in Parc Zoologique Ivoloina, a zoo in Madagascar. This was accomplished by working through the Madagascar Fauna Group. Significantly, this is the first and only exhibit for an amphibian species in the entire country. It features eight wild-caught tomato frogs that zookeepers there will attempt to breed so offspring may be available to zoos abroad. Educational graphics educate visitors about the preservation of this endangered species and its habitat, as very few people in Madagascar are aware of the threats to its survival. The Detroit Zoo (AAZK and Andy Snider) funded a keeper at this exhibit for 1 year. Baltimore has also provided funding for Dr. Edward Louis of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo to perform DNA testing on blood samples taken from tomato frogs with unknown pedigrees in U.S. zoos. This will enable zoos to determine exact lineages for all captive tomato frogs, so they can breed pairs that provide maximum genetic diversity in the captive population. (modified from Wisnieski et al. 1997)


Wyoming toad (Bufo baxteri) [1994-present]

Status: USFWS Endangered, IUCN Extinct in the Wild, AZA SSP

Summarized by: Brint Spencer, Philadelphia Zoo, (spencer[dot]brint[at]phillyzoo[dot]org)

Contact person: Brint Spencer, Philadelphia Zoo, (spencer[dot]brint[at]phillyzoo[dot]org)

Wyoming toads were once abundant in the wetlands and irrigated meadows of Wyoming’s southeastern plains. However, by the 1970’s the population had declined drastically and was confined to privately owned lands surrounding Mortenson Lake. Agricultural practices and disease (chytrid) were thought to be major contributing factors. In 1984, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recognized the species’ precarious status by listing the Wyoming toad as endangered. To protect the last population, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) stepped in and purchased the lake and surrounding lands, totaling approximately 1,800 acres (730 hectares). But populations continued to decline, and by 1994 the species was extinct in the wild: only captive populations remained. In December of 1996, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) approved a Species Survival Plan (SSP) that formalized a cooperative program of the AZA, FWS, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGF). This program was designed to restore the Wyoming toad to a secure status in the wild. The reintroduction story began in 1988, when a small number of toads were taken from Mortenson Lake to WGF facilities for captive breeding. In 1992, the FWS purchased some of the Wyoming toad’s last habitat from TNC and established the Mortenson National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). That same year, tadpoles and toadlets were released at Lake George and Rush Lake on Hutton NWR in an effort to establish a second wild population. By 1994, it was apparent that emergency measures were needed. In an effort to prevent the animal from becoming extinct, the last remaining toads were captured and a more intensive captive breeding program was initiated. The captive population greatly increased by 1995, with the help of several AZA affiliated zoos and the WGF facilities. Two government facilities, the Saratoga National Fish Hatchery (WY) and Sybille Wildlife Research Center (WY), also have captive populations. Nearly 600 toads now exist in captivity and there are almost 4,500 historical records in the studbook. Each spring, a number of the offspring produced that year are held back for the captive breeding program. The rest are returned to Wyoming, where they are released as tadpoles or toadlets. Since 1996, the program has produced approximately 47,800 toads for reintroduction into the Laramie basin. Most of the release efforts have focused on Mortenson Lake. Once a viable population has been established there, we will concentrate on other lakes in the area. So far, only a small number of toads have survived to breed. By the spring of 1998, 4 healthy egg masses were deposited and hatched in the wild. Again, in 1999, 2002, and 2003, there were several more healthy egg masses deposited and hatched in the wild. The AZA has also been involved in several research projects on the Wyoming toad. A radiotelemetry field study was funded by the AZA Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF) and a Challenge Cost Share Agreement from the FWS was initiated last year to look at microhabitat use. In addition, the Center for the Reproduction of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo received a CEF grant to study the feasibility of cryopreserving toad sperm. Vitamin A levels in the captive population seem extraordinarily low and a study is being undertaken at the Philadelphia Zoo to look at the dietary levels and uptake of this vitamin. An additional part of this study will analyze the nutritional content of wild prey items to compare to the captive diets. Future goals for the recovery effort include increasing the public’s awareness of the Wyoming toad’s critical status, expansion of the captive breeding program, and additional research. An outreach coordinator is being solicited to initiate education programs to reach adults and students in local schools. Upcoming research projects will include studies on the effects of temperature and the duration of hibernation, field work to identify toad hibernation sites, and a genetic analysis of captive versus wild bred populations (modified from Spencer 1999). Burton (1991) and Burton et al. (1995) offered experiences on managing the Wyoming toad and Taylor et al. (1994) reviewed causes of mortality in the captive population at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.



© 2003 Nathan Litjens

Barred Frogs (Mixophyes spp.) [1995-present]

Status: stuttering frog (M. balbus) - IUCN Vulnerable, Australia Endangered; Fleay’s barred frog (M. fleayi) - IUCN Endangered, Australia Endangered

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Frogs of the genus Mixophyes were identified as a target group by the ARAZPA Reptile & Amphibian TAG in 1995. This led to Melbourne Zoo commencing a program to establish the husbandry and breeding protocols for the most common species in the genus, the great barred frog (M. fasciolatus), in 1996. The long-term goal of this initiative is to then apply the knowledge and techniques gained to the more threatened species (Banks et al. 2003). This has been achieved and the Zoo developed a partnership with the Northern New South Wales Threatened Frog Recovery Team in 2000 to work with M. balbus. This species was once widespread along the east coast of Australia, but the only substantial population left is in the far north of the species’ historic range. The Zoo is currently rearing 15 frogs metamorphosed in captivity. Dispersal of M. fasciolatus bred at Melbourne Zoo has generated interest in frogs among a number of other zoos and supported a project at Lone Pine Sanctuary in southeast Queensland for Fleay’s barred frog (M. fleayi). The project is being implemented in conjunction with Queensland agencies (O’Callaghan 2001).



© 2004 Graeme R. Gillespie

Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea) [1995-present]

Status: IUCN Vulnerable, Australia Endangered

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

This species was once widespread across southeast Australia, but has declined dramatically in recent years and is now only found in less than 30 sites in the central coast region of New South Wales, eastern Australia (see Pyke and Osborne 1996). Taronga Zoo has worked with New South Wales agencies since 1995 to develop and implement a captive breeding and release program at one site south of Sydney, which is part of a broader conservation education program titled “Frog Focus” (deBritt and Russell 1999). This has involved captive breeding and release of over 200 tadpoles, with students from two local schools participating in the field monitoring. The program is currently under review.



© 2004 William Flaxington

Lowland Leopard Frog (Rana yavapaiensis) [1995-1999]

Status: Arizona Species of Special Concern

Summarized by: Mike Demlong, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (MDemlong[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us)

Contact person: Mike Demlong, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (MDemlong[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us)

Lowland leopards suffered mass deaths in Arizona in 1996-97. Since 1995, keepers on the Arizona Trail at the Phoenix Zoo have been rearing larvae in captivity as a model to prepare for working with ranid Species of Special Concern. Demlong and Sredl (1997) studied the effects of density on larval development. An education program “Tadpoles in the Classroom” put tadpoles, aquarium kits, husbandry manuals, and a lesson plan in low-income grade schools in the region; froglets were eventually returned to the zoo and released by students in an attempt to establish the species on zoo grounds.


Southern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) [1995-present]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered, Australia Endangered

Summarized by: Chris Banks and Russel Traher, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au) and (reptiles[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Southern corroboree frogs have been declining since the early 1980’s. Drought, localized habitat destruction, fires, and chytrid fungus have been implicated in their decline. Most populations have gone extinct or declined to very low numbers. In 1991 the wild population was estimated to be 10,000 - 30,000 adults (Osborne1991); in 2004 it was approximately 150 individuals (Hunter pers. com.). Seventy-seven percent of the subpopulations consist of less then 5 calling males. Results from long term monitoring demonstrate a high inclination for populations with fewer than 5 calling males to go extinct (Osborne 1998). The detrimental effects of small population size may also be part of the declining process. The Corroboree Frog National Recovery Team (CFNRT) was formed in 1996 to implement the recovery process. In 1997 a population augmentation program started to: assess whether it is possible to increase recruitment through to the metamorphic stage via a combination of captive-rearing and active field management to prevent tadpole mortality in the field; and determine whether an increase in the level of recruitment through to metamorphosis will result in an increase in the breeding adult population size in small remnant populations of P. corroboree (Hunter et al. 1999).

The captive-rearing component of the augmentation program was carried out by Melbourne’s, Amphibian Research Centre (ARC). Eggs were collected from the wild, hatched and raised in captivity and the tadpoles released at their collection site just prior to metamorphosis. This process significantly increased survivorship through to metamorphosis. In addition to the captive-rearing component, the development of a captive breeding program was deemed essential in order to provide a source of animals for future experimental and reintroduction projects. In 1997 a captive colony, started from eggs, was created at the ARC. In 2001 Melbourne Zoo (MZ) received a small number of tadpoles and frogs and created the first public display of the species. Following the 2002-03 disastrous bush-fires, which destroyed over 90% of the frog’s habitat, the CFNRT decided to remove all eggs from the wild during the 2003/2004 breeding season and increase the intensity of the captive breeding program. Due to the continued collapse of the wild population, the level of commitment from MZ to the recovery process has increased. MZ is now in the process of building a large rearing, breeding and research facility to help develop and contribute to the large scale production of frogs. MZ involvement to date has concentrated on increasing public awareness, a collaborative education program between MZ and the ARC, and profiling the recovery team and its associated sponsors and stakeholders. For additional information, see http://frogs.org.au/corroboree/, Osborne (1989) and Osborne and Norman (1991).



© 2004 Michal Beree

Blue Dart-Poison Frog (Dendrobates azureus) [1996-present]

Status: IUCN Vulnerable, CITES II, AZA PMP

Summarized by: Ben Eiben, National Aquarium in Baltimore, (BEiben[at]aqua[dot]org)

Contact person: Jack Cover, National Aquarium in Baltimore,(jcover[at]aqua[dot]org)

The blue poison dart frog is a Suriname endemic found in a few isolated "rainforest islands" in the Sipaliwini savanna of remote southern Suriname. This species was discovered on the western slopes of the Vier Gebroeder Mountains in 1968. The species is classified CITES II, but due to the remoteness of its range, reliable reports on the status of the wild population are largely unknown. There were rumors from European dart frog collectors that a fire had rendered the wild populations extinct in 1992. To get first hand knowledge of the wild population status, The National Aquarium in Baltimore in partnership with Conservation International conducted two field surveys to the region in 1996 and 1997. The Suriname Forest Service permitted the NAIB to collect 20 D. azureus in 1997 to start a captive breeding program. The program is now a PMP and includes 20 participating institutions holding a total of 175 F1 captive-bred offspring. Fourteen of the original 20 wild caught founders are currently reproductive and within the past year three under-represented bloodlines have produced offspring. The NAIB has not personally had the opportunity to return to the field to observe the wild population status since 1997. In 2003 we collaborated with Brice Noonan, a graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington studying Dendrobates tinctorius systematics in Suriname. In May of 2003 he traveled to the Vier Gebroeders to observe D. azureus and collect DNA samples for comparison to nearby D. tinctorious populations. Mr. Noonan observed D. azureus in the locations he traveled but no population surveys were conducted. In the future a more thorough field survey should be implemented to get a more accurate population account and to develop needed trust of NAIB by the Suriname Forest Service. In conjunction with this, the potential for the co‑development of a long-term D. azureus conservation plan with the Suriname Forest Service would be a valuable step for the establishment of a needed in situ conservation component for this program. It should also be noted that there has been a studbook for this species in the U.K. for a decade.



© 2001 Joyce Gross

California Red-Legged Frog (Rana draytonii) [1997-present]

Status: USFWS Threatened, IUCN Near Threatened, California Species of Concern

Summarized by: Russell Smith, Los Angeles Zoo, (RSmith[at]ZOO[dot]LACITY[dot]ORG) and David Hild, (formerly) Sacramento Zoo, (cordylus17[at]hotmail[dot]com)

Contact person: Russell Smith, Los Angeles Zoo, (RSmith[at]ZOO[dot]LACITY[dot]ORG)

The California Red-legged frog was once the most common large ranid frog in California and was also the subject of Mark Twain’s ‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’. However, because of commercial exploitation for frog legs, introduced predators (bullfrogs, crayfish, fish), and habitat destruction, this subspecies has now disappeared from 90% of its original range. Recent analyses suggest that this taxon is a distinct species (Shaffer et al. 2004). The Los Angeles Zoo is working with UC Davis, USFWS, and The Nature Conservancy to study populations in the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, and Baja, Mexico. The focus is on the Santa Rosa population, which was down to 5.1 frogs in 1997, 3.0 in 1998. In situ studies include population surveys, genetic analyses, and radio telemetry. The Zoo is also working on captive rearing protocols. Genetic analyses suggest that the closest related animals to the Santa Rosa population are from northern Baja; permits are in the works to import egg masses or tadpoles to supplement the Santa Rosa population. For additional information, see Krofta (2003). The Sacramento Zoo conducted some head-starting in the spring of 2002, when a USFWS agent found 2 red-legged frog egg masses in a Bay area pond that might be impacted by nearby road construction. 75 animals were reared through metamorphosis, and in the fall of that same year after construction was complete, the USFWS agent released the metamorphs back at the collection site.



© 2004 Hank Wallays

Mexican Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) [1998-present]

Status: CITES II, IUCN Vulnerable

Summarized by: Richard Griffiths, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, (R.A.Griffiths[at]ukc[dot]ac[dot]uk) and Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo, (bjohnson[at]torontozoo[dot]ca)

Contact person: overall project: Richard Griffiths, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, (R.A.Griffiths[at]ukc[dot]ac[dot]uk) or zoo: Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo, (bjohnson[at]torontozoo[dot]ca)

All Mexican Ambystoma species are threatened due to drainage and pollution of their lake water habitat, introduced fish, and overcollection. The axolotl is found only in Lake Xochimilco, the last remnant of a once extensive wetland system that covered much of the volcanic basin in which Mexico City now sits. This closed aquatic system was maintained by a network of natural springs, rainwater and meltwater from surrounding volcanoes. Development of the wetland for agriculture stems from pre-Aztec times, but intensified following the foundation of the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán on an island in the lake. Farmers reclaimed land by piling up mud and vegetation to form raised fields known as ‘chinampas’, and an extensive lacustrine economy developed. Present-day water bodies cover a mere 2.3 square kilometers, and this reduction is largely the result of the diversion of natural springs over 100 years ago to meet the water demands of a burgeoning human population. In order to try and restore water levels, discharge of tertiary-treated sewage back into the system was initiated in 1957. Although this has probably stopped Lake Xochimilco disappearing completely, water quality and eutrophication are now major issues. A census carried out at 12 sampling sites using the services of a reliable local fisherman between 1995-1996 captured 76 animals. This translates into a population density of about 60 individuals per hectare. A recent survey of axolotls carried out in January-February 2002 - again using the traditional fishing method - yielded no axolotls. The laboratory of Dr. Virginia Graue Weichers, Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas y Acuicolas de Cuemanco (CIBAC), was set up near the Lake and set to release captive-produced eggs and larvae, in addition to conducting research into the effects of carp and contaminants on larvae. It was destined to become a center for lake restoration, community involvement in the conservation of the axolotl and other wildlife. Unfortunately, Dr. Weichers passed away recently. Axolotl conservation is now carried out in Mexico in collaboration with El Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas y Acuicolas de Cuemanco (CIBAC), Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana - Xochimilco (UAM), Chapultepec Zoo, the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), and community based conservation groups. Cooperative axolotl conservation efforts include habitat restoration and conservation education. DICE, with support from a Darwin Initiative Grant and in partnership with UAM, Mexican conservation authorities (CONABIO and SEMARNAT) and community stakeholders are developing long term conservation plans that include population assessment, research, support for artisans in developing axolotl carvings, and development of community based nature tourism (beginning with boat operators on the lake). The Toronto Zoo has sponsored several research projects and provides financial and technical support for in situ conservation and research. Toronto Zoo was awarded the Canadian Museum Association and Department of Canadian Heritage Young Canada Works Grant to support student involvement in GIS analysis of the Lake Xochimilco ecosystem and distribution patterns of axolotl. The 2002 survey of axolotl populations mentioned above produced results confirming a drastic decline in numbers in the lake (Jones 2002) and ongoing surveys are recommended. Toronto Zoo also provides support for Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo outreach resources and axolotl displays. Although there is much captive-breeding of axolotls, in zoos and universities around the world, there are no plans for release until the original threats can be alleviated. Zoos will surely continue to house and breed axolotls for exhibit purposes, but a managed program in captivity is not recommended at this time because there are already Mexican researchers and zoo folk working with the species. Parties interested in supporting work with endangered Mexican ambystomatids can contact these Mexican or DICE biologists, or consider working with one of the other lesser-represented species (e.g., Ambystoma andersoni, A. dumerilii). For additional information on the axolotl program, see Griffiths et al. (2003).



© 1990 Brad Moon

Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis) [1998-present]

Status: USFWS Threatened, IUCN Vulnerable, Wildlife of Special Concern in Arizona

Summarized by: Kevin Wright, Phoenix Zoo, (KWright[at]thephxzoo[dot]com)

Contact person: overall project: Mike Sredl, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (MSredl[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us) or zoo: Kevin Wright, Phoenix Zoo, (KWright[at]thephxzoo[dot]com)

The Chiricahua leopard frog underwent a precipitous decline in the 1990s and is currently found in less than 25% of its former range. The USFWS Recovery Team Technical Subgroup is currently drafting a recovery plan. Kevin Wright, Director of Conservation and Science at the Phoenix Zoo, serves as a member of this subgroup. The main factors contributing to this species’ decline were habitat loss and fragmentation, especially as a result of damming of the main rivers in this region and reservoir management, agricultural conversion of land, groundwater pumping, and extirpation of beavers that once constructed important pond habitats. The remaining populations were few and scattered. The coup de grace to this species has been the effects of bullfrogs, crayfish, and exotic predatory fish that attack all life stages of the Chiricahua leopard frog, and outbreaks of chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease of amphibians that has been implicated in declines and extinctions of amphibians worldwide. The recovery team consists of a group of Chiricahua leopard frog experts, the Technical Subgroup, and individuals that use or manage the land throughout the range of the species, the Stakeholders Subgroup. Both subgroups will help shape the final recovery plan, which will consist of effective conservation actions that will try to minimize their impact to the stakeholders. Recovery is also complicated because this taxon might be split into two distinct species, with populations in the northern part of the range being assigned to a new species. The Phoenix Zoo has helped headstart some Chiricahua leopard frogs. In 1998, nearly 700 of their head-started animals were released back into the wild. In 2004, 23 metamorphs were released on a private ranch southwest of Tucson in an area of former range. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has also assisted with this project. For additional information, see Sredl and Healy (1999) and Fernandez (1996).

Phoenix Zoo and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum currently participate with the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Ranid Strategic Plan that is identifying additional conservation needs of those ranid frog species with formal conservation plans (species previously mentioned) and those lacking a formal plan (e.g. R. pipiens, R. blairi, and R. yavapaiensis).



© 1996 William Leonard

Oregon Spotted Frogs (Rana pretiosa) [1998-present]

Status: USFWS candidate, California Sensitive Species - Critical, California Species of Special Concern, Oregon Sensitive species, Washington Endangered, British Columbia Endangered

Summarized by: Blair Csuti, Oregon Zoo, (csutib[at]metro[dot]dst[dot]or[dot]us) and Russ Haycock, Canadian Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team, (rhaycock[at]hyla[dot]ca)

Contact person: Blair Csuti, Oregon Zoo (csutib[at]metro[dot]dst[dot]or[dot]us) or Russ Haycock, Canadian Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team (rhaycock[at]hyla[dot]ca)

The Oregon spotted frog is among the region's most endangered amphibians. It has disappeared from well over 70%of its relatively small range in the Pacific Northwest and is completely extirpated from low elevation areas south of the Columbia River. Currently, about 35 known extant populations occur from the Lower Fraser Valley of southern British Columbia south to southern Oregon, most of which number fewer than 1,000 individuals. The species may be extinct in northeastern California, the southernmost extent of its historic range. Many possible reasons have been postulated for the decline of the Oregon spotted frog, including predation pressure from non-native species, habitat loss and alteration, increased larval mortality resulting from fertilizer runoff, climate change, and increased susceptibility to pathogens or parasites. Because both Oregon spotted frogs and introduced bullfrogs use warm water habitats, bullfrog predation is one factor that may have led to the spotted frog's extirpation from the Willamette Valley. Experimental evidence suggests that predation by bullfrog larvae reduces survivorship in closely related red-legged frog larvae. At least one site is known where spotted frogs and bullfrogs coexist (Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Washington), which may be due, in part, to habitat partitioning in a relatively complex aquatic system. This example may provide a model for habitat modification that might allow successful reintroduction of the Oregon spotted frog to low elevation sites in the Puget Trough and Willamette Valley. Potential of reintroduction as a recovery strategy for the Oregon spotted frog, however, remains hypothetical because successful husbandry techniques for raising larval Oregon spotted frogs have not yet been developed. The “Draft Oregon Spotted Frog Conservation Plan” (Hall et al. 1999) recommends research on a small-scale captive-breeding program “to develop techniques for possible future use in an introduction or augmentation program.” The Oregon Zoo has raised some frogs to adulthood for exhibit, where zoo visitors learned the sad story of the vanishing Oregon spotted frog, but is not presently carrying out research on larval husbandry techniques. The zoo feels it would be in a position to step forward if fish and wildlife agencies launch a captive propagation/reintroduction program as part of the recovery plan for this species. Zoo staff are also doing excellent research on the dietary needs of larval spotted frogs (link to http://www.zooregon.org/ConservationResearch/spottedfrog.htm). The Oregon spotted frog may be listed as Federally Threatened or Endangered, however the listing process is currently stalled. Each March for the last five years, Oregon Zoo employees, together with Zoo volunteers, have made trips out to Conboy Lake NWR to hunt for egg clutches. When found, the clutch is marked with a flag and then data on location, size, water temperature, etc., are recorded. Mr. Frank Slavens has also been successful raising Oregon spotted frogs from the egg stage to metamorphosis at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

There is an active larval rearing and reintroduction program in British Columbia. Russ Haycock co-chairs the Canadian Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team, which is partnered with the Vancouver Aquarium, Greater Vancouver Zoo, and Mountain View Breeding and Conservation Centre. The zoological facilities have provided space and staff to rear approximately 3000 larvae/metamorphs in the past two years for head-starting and release in the case of larvae, and release in the case of metamorphs. The release sites are a National Defence naval communications site and First Nations property.



© 2002 Nathan Litjens

Growling Grass or Southern Bell Frog (Litoria raniformis) [1999-present]

Status: IUCN Endangered, Australia Endangered

Summarized by: Kwai Chang-Kum, Werribee Open Range Zoo, (worzkeepers[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Kwai Chang-Kum, Werribee Open Range Zoo (worzkeepers[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

This species, once widespread throughout southeastern Australia and Tasmania is now found only in isolated populations in fragmented habitats. It has apparently been introduced into New Zealand, where it is infected with chytrid (Bishop 2000). In addition to habitat fragmentation, introduced mosquito fish and chytrid fungus might be playing a role in their decline in their natural habitat (see AmphibiaWeb species account, Robertson et al. 2002). The Melbourne Zoo has been working with this species since 1999, maintaining a breeding assurance population in captivity. Staff at Werribee Open Range Zoo (WORZ), in conjunction with Latrobe University, began in 2003 restoring habitat on zoo grounds, monitoring the wild zoo population and studying their habitat use, and testing for chytrid. The VORZ onsite wild population is thought to be 1 of 10 remaining in Victoria. For further information, see Hayes and Chang-Kum (2004) and Osborne et al. (1996).


Mountain Chicken (Leptodactylus fallax) [1999-present]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered

Summarized by: Kevin Buley, Chester Zoo, (K.Buley[at]chesterzoo[dot]co[dot]uk), and Jay King, private veterinarian, (Jay[at]marz[dot]com)

Contact person: Gerardo Garcia, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust,(gerardo.garcia[at]durrell[dot]org)

Although this species is thought to have occurred historically on at least 8 Caribbean islands, it is currently found on 2. The mountain chicken is extremely rare on the island of Montserrat, where it has suffered from hunting, habitat loss/modification (farming, goats, pigs, rats), and volcanic eruptions (Daly and Gray 1999). It is also rare on Dominica, where the primary cause of decline is hunting, but chytrid fungus was recently diagnosed in dead and dying chickens. Periodic hunting bans and fear of zoonoses (Shigella) offer some relief from overcollection. In 1999, at the request of the Montserrat government, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust brought 13 animals into a captive-breeding program. The program was a huge success resulting in over 100 offspring that have been distributed to other zoos (like Detroit, where captive-bred young are now reproducing) and in a publication by DWCPT staff describing a unique form of anuran reproduction (Gibson and Buley 2004). It was also long known that the larvae hatched and completed metamorphosis within terrestrial foam nests, but DWPT staff first observed that the larvae survived on more than their yolk stores, in fact, the female provides trophic eggs to feed the terrestrial larvae and this is their only food. In the field, Montserrat Forestry Dept staff conduct monthly population monitoring using transects established by DWCT staff in 1999 (see Daly and Gray 1999). There are discussions underway regarding Paris Museum of Natural History staff overseeing a reintroduction of captive-bred animals onto Martinique where this species used to occur.



© 2004 John White

Panamanian Golden Frog (Atelopus zeteki) [1999-present]

Status: USFWS Endangered, IUCN Critically Endangered, CITES I

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo, (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us)

Contact person: overall project: Roberto Ibanez, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute ibanezr[at]si[dot]edu or zoo: Vicky Poole, Baltimore Zoo (vapoole[at]aol[dot]com)

Project Golden Frog (PGF) is a conservation consortium involving numerous Panamanian and U.S. institutions (including Baltimore and Detroit Zoos) with interests in wildlife conservation. The single, simple goal is to ensure against the extinction of one of the world's most recognizable, culturally significant, and endangered amphibians: the Panamanian golden frog. Conservation efforts fall into three main areas: population and habitat assessments, an intensively managed captive-breeding program, and range-country education initiatives. Four study sites have been established to investigate various aspects of the species' biology, such as habitat requirements, seasonal activity patterns, and reproductive behavior. Transects are monitored on a biweekly basis by a Panamanian undergraduate student, with assistance from local Panamanians who live near the golden frogs’ habitat. As a precautionary measure against extinction, golden frogs are also bred in captivity in a PMP program; there are currently hundreds of offspring distributed among dozens of AZA-accredited zoos. There are no current plans for reintroduction, at least until the current threats can be addressed, but talks are underway to establish a captive-breeding facility in Panama. Project educators disseminate information from the field studies and captive program to raise awareness among the Panamanian public regarding the plight of this culturally important animal. Range-country education initiatives include conducting teacher workshops, like the one held in Panamá from 17-21 February 2003. 35 teachers and park rangers from throughout the range of the golden frog were assembled and taught about the natural history, cultural significance, and conservation status of this species. Participants were also given curricula containing this information in a format geared toward school children, thereby empowering them to effectively transfer this information to the next generation. For additional information, see Zippel (2002a) and www.projectgoldenfrog.org.


Ramsey Canyon Leopard Frog (Rana subaquavocalis) [1999-2001]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered, Arizona Wildlife of Special Concern

Summarized by: Kevin Wright, Phoenix Zoo, (KWright[at]thephxzoo[dot]com)

Contact person: overall project: Kimberleigh Field, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (KField[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us) or zoo: Kevin Wright, Phoenix Zoo, (KWright[at]thephxzoo[dot]com)

Like the other southwestern US ranid species discussed here, Ramsey canyon leopards have declined dramatically due to emergent diseases, interactions with nonnative species, and/or habitat destruction. Actions by the Phoenix Zoo were critical to the survival of the Ramsey Canyon leopard frog. Head-starting efforts included the raising of thousands of tadpoles from egg masses for release into protected areas in Ramsey and Miller Canyons in Arizona. In 1999, the known population was down to fewer than ten adult frogs in the wild. Phoenix overwintered some of the last frogs known and released them the following spring. In 2004, thousands of eggs in dozens of egg masses were reported in the wild and the population appears to be rebounding. Phoenix Zoo has also been involved in research related to chytrid infection in a wild population of Ramsey Canyon leopard frogs. For additional information, see Sredl et al. (2002).

Phoenix Zoo and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum currently participate with the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Ranid Strategic Plan that is identifying additional conservation needs of those ranid frog species with formal conservation plans (species previously mentioned) and those lacking a formal plan (e.g. R. pipiens, R. blairi, and R. yavapaiensis).



© 1992 Brad Moon

Tarahumara Frog (Rana tarahumarae) [1992-present]

Status: IUCN Vulnerable, Wildlife of Special Concern in Arizona

Summarized by: Craig Ivanyi, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, civanyi[at]desertmuseum[dot]org, and Mike Sredl, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (MSredl[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us)

Contact person: overall project: Mike Sredl, Arizona Game and Fish Department, (MSredl[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us) or zoo: Craig Ivanyi, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, (civanyi[at]desertmuseum[dot]org)

The Tarahumara frog formerly occurred in Santa Cruz County, in the Pajarito-Atascosa and Santa Rita mountains. Population declines began in the late 1970s and continued into the early 1980s, leading to eventual extirpation of the species in Arizona, probably in 1983. Contributing factors to the extirpation of this species are largely unknown, but might include toxic (heavy metal) fallout from smelters and disease. Wild populations still occur in northern Mexico, and declines that were noted there in the early to mid 1980s might have stopped. This species is targeted for a state-managed reintroduction program. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a member of the Tarahumara Frog Conservation Team and has been working with this species in captivity since 1992. Breeding has occurred in several years and produced 70-80% of the animals released back into former habitat (see Sredl et al. 2004).



Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) [2000-present]

Status: USFWS Endangered, CITES I, IUCN Critically Endangered

Summarized by: Sam Lee, WCS/Bronx Zoo, (slee[at]wcs[dot]org)

Contact person: overall project: Wilfred Sarunday, LKEMP, (lkemp[at]intafrica[dot]com) or zoo: Sam Lee, WCS/Bronx Zoo, (slee[at]wcs[dot]org)

In November 2000 the Bronx Zoo was asked by the World Bank to help save Tanzania's Kihansi spray toad. The only known population of this tiny viviparous toad was threatened by the construction of a huge hydroelectric project that was about to shut off the unbridled flow of water to the Kihansi Gorge and alter the spray zone habitat. Zoo staff and Tanzanian experts collected 499 toads, which were imported into the United States and distributed among the Bronx and partner zoos in Detroit, Baltimore, Oklahoma City, Toledo, and Buffalo. Although the species has been bred to the 3rd generation, success has been offset by high mortality due to parasitism of the founders and low survival rate of the small offspring. When WCS asked the World Bank and the United Republic of Tanzania to help support the captive-breeding program, the request went unheeded. At that time, in May 2003, the wild population was doing well after mitigation of the spray wetlands by an artificial sprinkler system Meanwhile, the captive spray toad population was growing too fast to be managed adequately so further breeding was discourage until program costs and expansion plans received funding. In June 2003, the Tanzanian government elected to release more water from the Kihansi Gorge to see whether conditions would improve without sprinklers. Within about a week, the estimated population of 18,000 toads declined to 40. Scientists have since discovered that chytridiomycosis has infected the wild spray toad population and other amphibians in the Kihansi and neighboring Udagji gorges. It is not clear whether dramatic habitat loss, contamination of the water supply upstream, increased predation from invading ants and birds, chytridiomycosis, or a combination of these stress factors caused the decline. In mid-January 2004, Sam Lee (Bronx Zoo) and Kevin Zippel (Detroit Zoo) visited the Kihansi gorge and saw only three spray toads and heard two males calling; none has been seen or heard since. Later, Sam Lee attended an emergency meeting in Washington, D.C., on the future of the Kihansi Gorge ecosystem and the toads. The World Bank and the Tanzanian government asked Wildlife Conservation Society to revive the captive breeding program. It is currently being managed to increase the number of toads and maintain genetic diversity but is hampered by the ability to individually identify animals and known sires. For additional information, see Lee et al. 2004.



© 1998 William Leonard

Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi) [2001-present]

Status: IUCN Least Concern, MI Species of Special Concern, Canada Endangered

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo , ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us

Contact person: overall project: Mike Lannoo, Ball State University , mlannoo[at]bsu[dot]edu or zoo: Bob Johnson, Toronto Zoo, bjohnson[at]torontozoo[dot]ca

Although still common in the south, this species is declining across the northern extremes of its range and might be extirpated in Canada. A working hypothesis is that since the range limits might be uninhabitable periodically (thus limiting the range to that area), peripheral populations of a short-lived species like the cricket frog are likely extirpated and recolonized with some regularity. However, recolonization is only possible if contiguous corridors of suitable habitat allow the dispersal of cricket frogs from nearby populations. In the extremely fragmented habitat of the urban environment, this is simply not possible, and extirpations without intervention are likely permanent. It is likely that persistence of peripheral populations will depend on anthropogenic gene flow (periodic translocation of eggs or tadpoles among isolated populations). The Toronto Zoo is supporting wetland construction and characterization on Pelee Island and collaborating with Trent University to study the phylogenetics of different cricket frog populations: when the best donor population is identified, egg masses will be translocated back onto Pelee Island where cricket frogs were last documented in Canada. The Detroit Zoo is collaborating with the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan Dearborn to conduct habitat and population assessments; a translocation effort is also in progress to rescue a population of cricket frogs on land slated to be developed and move the animals to a manmade wetland on zoo grounds, within their former range.


Lemur Leaf Frog (Phyllomedusa lemur) [2001-present]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered in Costa Rica, unknown in Panama

Summarized by: Ron Gagliardo, Atlanta Botanical Garden, rgagliardo[at]atlantabotanicalgarden[dot]org and Brian Kubicki, Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center, centrolenid[at]yahoo[dot]com

Contact person: Ron Gagliardo, Atlanta Botanical Garden, rgagliardo[at]atlantabotanicalgarden[dot]org

The lemur leaf frog was once known from several localities in Costa Rica and Panama. In Costa Rica, it is currently known to occur at only one site, which is under great pressure from local timber harvest. Although it has been recently confirmed to still occur there, the exact status of Phyllomedusa lemur in neighboring Panama remains unclear (R. Ibáñez pers. com.). In 2001, the Atlanta Botanical Garden began a captive-breeding program with this rare phyllomedusine with 4 adult specimens collected from the single Costa Rican site. In 2003, captive-born offspring were distributed to other institutions including the Detroit Zoo, Henry Vilas Zoo, and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Apparently several years ago, animals from this same locality were collected and later bred at the Manchester Museum in the UK. Offspring were distributed into Germany and recently, specimens of a subsequent generation were sent to the Atlanta Botanical Garden from a private breeder. These will be raised to maturity and bred with existing animals to further diversify the gene pool. Future plans include a return visit to the Costa Rican site and discussion with academic and government officials to determine their interest in pursuing further conservation efforts.



© 2003 Stephen C. Richter

Mississippi Gopher Frog (Rana sevosa) [2001-present]

Status: USFWS Endangered, IUCN Critically Endangered

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo, (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us)

Contact person: overall project: Linda LaClaire, Georgia USFWS , (Linda_LaClaire[at]fws[dot]gov) or zoo: Steve Reichling, Memphis Zoo, (sreichling[at]memphiszoo[dot]org)

Generally regarded as the most endangered anuran in North America, only 50-100 adults remain in the wild. Although gopher frogs assigned to the Rana capito group occurred historically across the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Florida and up the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina, habitat destruction/fragmentation and development have led to numerous local extirpations and a series of isolated populations. In Mississippi, gopher frogs are currently restricted to a single site in Harrison County: Glen’s Pond in Desoto National Forest. This single remaining population, comprising 50-100 adults, was recently shown to be genetically unique (Young and Crother 2001) and designated the dusky gopher frog (R. sevosa), now more commonly known as the Mississippi gopher frog. [This distinct population should not be confused with the earlier taxonomic entities R. capito sevosa or R. areolata sevosa, which included this and other populations from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle. Only the single Mississippi population was elevated to full species status; the other populations were not unique, lost subspecific designation, and are now simply considered R. capito.] The habitat surrounding this critically endangered population at Glen’s Pond is threatened by nearby construction of a housing development and two highways. In 2001, 45 tadpoles were sent to Audubon Zoo and 37 to Detroit Zoo for rearing. Although Audubon had all the initial success with the tadpoles and established a successful husbandry protocol, they were unable to grow any to adulthood. Detroit raised 20 animals to adults, then began losing them to mycobacterium, an untreatable disease. Later in 2001, a number of bloated, dying Rana sphenocephala tadpoles were found in Pony Ranch Pond, just a few kilometers from Glen’s Pond. Specimens were sent to Dr. David E. Green (USGS) who noted abnormalities of the liver, spleen, and kidneys, apparently caused by an unidentified mesomycetozoan (a Perkinsus-like organism with characteristics of both yeast and protozoa; not related to chytrid). This pathogen was first detected in dying Rana catesbeiana tadpoles from New Hampshire in 1999, and since has been associated with mass die-offs of larval ranids from Minnesota (2000 & 2001) and Virginia (2001). In some of these localities, the pathogen was found in association with concurrent iridovirus infections. In late March 2003, many of the R. sevosa tadpoles at Glen’s pond began succumbing to the same pathogen (confirmed by Dr. Green). In May of 2003, 70 tadpoles were transferred to the care of staff at the Memphis Zoo and University of Tennessee at Memphis. Here they underwent a series of drug trials, and 32 animals were brought through to metamorphosis. It is hoped that these ‘disease-free’ animals will form the basis of a captive-breeding program. The vast majority of the tadpoles remaining at Glen’s Pond perished; only 3 metamorphs were found leaving along the drift fence. 50 additional tadpoles from Glen’s pond were sent to Memphis in 2004, where unfortunately, they all perished. 3100 tadpoles from Glen’s Pond were translocated to a nearby Nature Conservancy pond -- the project’s first translocation -- and 150 more are being head-started at Harrison Experimental Forest (HEF) to be released at the TNC property as metamorphs.

Note: 2 new “populations” of R. sevosa were recently discovered in Jackson County, MS. A single calling male was recently heard at McCoy’s pond 50 miles east of Glen’s, although no other animals and no signs of breeding were detected. Also, 50 R. sevosa tadpoles were collected from a new site, Mike’s Pond 20 miles west of Glen’s, and they are being head-started at the HEF for release back at Mike’s Pond site. For additional information, see Richter et al. (2003).


Negros Cave Frog (Platymantis spelaea) [2002-2003]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered

Summarized by: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

Contact person: Chris Banks, Melbourne Zoo, (cbanks[at]zoo[dot]org[dot]au)

The Negros Cave frog is known historically only from limestone caves in south‑central Negros Island in the West Visayan region of the Philippines (Alcala and Brown 1998). None of the habitat in its range is protected and human encroachment continues to threaten the survival of the species and wildlife in the area generally. This includes proposals for dam construction and forest clearance. Concerns about the status of the frog were raised in 2000, following a very preliminary assessment of frog numbers, although this was not based on any coordinated surveys (Alcala and Alcala 2000). However, the suggestion of a greater than 90% decline in less than 20 years created much interest within the Philippines and resulted in a more detailed survey by researchers from Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. This survey was funded by Chester and Melbourne Zoos, and recorded frogs in 86 caves across Basay Province, from 147 caves surveyed (C. Dolino, pers. com.). Numbers ranged from 6‑16 frogs per cave, for an estimated population size of around 800 frogs. The continuing movement of people into the area was identified as the major threat to the survival of the cave habitats, together with associated pollution, damage to the caves, and collection of bats, snakes and cave swiflets for food. A series of recommendations has been presented to the local DENR (Department of Environment & Natural Resources) office for action, but implementation will require external support.


Relict Leopard Frog (Rana onca) [2002-present]

Status: USFWS candidate, IUCN Endangered, Wildlife of Special Concern in Arizona

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo, (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us) and Mike Sredl, Arizona Game and Fish Department , (MSredl[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us)

Contact person: overall project: Mike Sredl, Arizona Game and Fish Department , (MSredl[at]gf[dot]state[dot]az[dot]us) or zoo: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo, (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us)

The relict leopard frog was the first US amphibian species declared extinct by 1950, but was rediscovered in 1991 in the marginal habitat of desert springs and creeks in southern Nevada. It continues to suffer as the spring habitat is developed for human use and non-native species (fish, bullfrogs) invade the area. The relict leopard is currently known from only 5-6 populations around very small springs, with 1100 total individuals, over half of which represent a single population. In cooperation with the National Park Service and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Detroit Zoo raised ~20 wild tadpoles in 2002 and is now breeding them as adults. Any resultant offspring will be returned for release throughout the former range. The relict leopard frog will be conserved under a multi-agency Conservation Agreement like the Ramsey Canyon leopard frog.



© 2004 Twan Leenders

Costa Rican Variable Harlequin Toad (Atelopus varius) [2003-present]

Status: none

Summarized by: Ron Gagliardo, Atlanta Botanical Garden, (gagliardo[at]atlantabotanicalgarden[dot]org)

Contact person: Ron Gagliardo, Atlanta Botanical Garden, (gagliardo[at]atlantabotanicalgarden[dot]org)

One of the most brilliantly marked and thus well-publicized harlequin toads is A. varius, a species native to Costa Rica and Panama. After an eight year time period without any sightings, this harlequin toad was presumed to be extinct in Costa Rica although it is still known to occur in Panama. In June of 2003, a colleague found a tourist facility in the Pacific drainage of Costa Rica exhibiting a pair of Atelopus, which were supposedly collected locally and recently. Molecular analysis of a toe clip confirmed that these were A. varius (R. Ibáñez, unpubl. data). In early December 2003, staff from Atlanta Botanical Garden and Detroit Zoo returned to the ecotourist facility to verify the existence of this population in the field. Despite the rainy weather encountered and that Atelopus are typically only found in abundance at streams during the dry season, the group was able to locate three individuals in 18 man hours VES (6 evening, 6 night, and 6 morning): two juveniles (one estimated six months or younger, the other under a year), and one sexually mature male, evident by the nuptial pads. The presence of juveniles indicated that reproduction had taken place within the past year. All three specimens were measured, photographed and released. Another goal of the December trip was to identify whether the chytrid fungus was present in this area. En route to the site, several other anuran species were captured and swabbed for later chytrid testing. This procedure consisted of gently rubbing the skin surface using a 2” cotton swab with special emphasis on the lower surfaces of feet, venter, and drink patch. These samples were sent to Pisces Molecular, (Boulder, Colorado USA) for PCR testing. They were negative for the presence of chytrid. The three A. varius specimens found were also swabbed and the samples sent to the laboratory of Alan Hyatt (Queensland, Australia) for testing. One of these Atelopus samples tested positive for chytrid. A subsequent visit to the site by employees of the ecotourism facility in March 2004 resulted in further confirmation, when 7 specimens were found. No data were collected from these specimens.

A recovery project for A. varius in Costa Rica could consist of a collaboration involving the landowners, Costa Rican government, University of Costa Rica and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. We believe ex situ conservation measures are needed, since A. varius has disappeared from the rest of the republic, where it was previously known from at least 72 populations. This crucial move will secure survival of the species and could be the seed for reintroduction projects in the future, if we ever understand why these and other species disappeared from Costa Rica. In addition, more survey work is warranted, as there may be other sites at similar elevations and stream habitats where this species may be found. Using topographic maps, historical data and other information we are planning future field surveys to investigate the presence of other populations. As mentioned earlier, one objective is to establish a captive population of Atelopus varius for safeguarding, future research and possible reintroduction. Following this, more fieldwork can be conducted to determine the extent and viability of the specific population (modified from Bolaños et al 2005).



© 2004 David M. Green

Archey’s frog (Leiopelma archeyi) [2004-present]

Status: IUCN Critically Endangered

Summarized by: Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo , (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us)

Contact person: Peter West, (westp[at]ihug[dot]co[dot]nz)

Chytrid fungus has been introduced onto New Zealand and conservation programs for the endemic leiopelmatids are critically needed. Auckland Zoo, in partnership with the Department of Conservation and the Native Frog Recovery Group, is constructing an educational exhibit/captive-breeding facility - the 'Carter Holt Harvey Native Frog Research Centre' - for Leiopelma archeyi (http://www.aucklandzoo.co.nz/conservation/index.php). Frogs are expected to be in place by September 2004. For additional information, see Holyoake et al. (2001).

IV. Basic research (independent of species-specific conservation programs).

While amphibians are held in captivity for exhibit and breeding, they are also readily available for scientific study. Indeed, several significant discoveries on the biology of amphibians were made on zoo captives. This subject is covered extensively by Murphy (2005), but some more profound aspects are mentioned here.

That the eggs are brooded within the dorsum of the female Surinam toad (Pipa pipa) has been known since Merian in 1705 (Schüette and Ehrl 1987) ; however, it was not until a series of captive breedings at the Brookfield Zoo in the early 1960s that it was revealed how the eggs got there (Rabb and Rabb 1960, 1963a; Rabb and Snedigar 1960) . Zippel (2005) offered additional observations and clarifications from the Detroit Zoo with an overview of P. pipa biology and husbandry. George Rabb and his coworkers also documented some spectacular territorial interactions and a variety of calls in the Surinam toad (same references), and were first to document the reproductive biology of another pipid, the dwarf African clawed frog (Hymenochirus boettgeri) (Rabb and Rabb 1963b). Rabb’s work in this area eventually led to a book chapter (Rabb 1973). He was also an able taxonomist and in addition to his work with reptiles, described several new species of amphibians (Rabb 1955, 1956, 1959, 1960). Rabb also served as Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) and played a vital role in the formation of the DAPTF and ISIS; he has also served as president of the ASIH.

JohnDaly of the National Institutes of Health has worked closely with zoo folks over the years studying amphibian toxins; together they discovered that the toxins of dendrobatids are the result of dietary preference in wild animals, and that captive-reared animals denied that diet are non-toxic (Daly et al. 1992, Daly et al. 1994a, Daly et al. 1994b) .

The chytrid fungus that is currently decimating wild amphibian populations on every amphibian-inhabited continent (except Asia, yet) was co-discovered by a team of American zoo pathologists, including Don Nichols of the National Zoo (Longcore et al. 1998, 1999; Nichols 2003; Pessier et al. 1999). Nichols and his colleagues also conducted studies on transmission and host susceptibility, and developed a cure for captive animals (Lamirande and Nichols 2002, Nichols and Lamirande 2000, Nichols et al. 2001). Allan Pessier, a pathologist at the San Diego Zoo, was coauthor on several of these papers.

In 2001, zoo veterinarians from the Phoenix Zoo and the National Aquarium in Baltimore published an authoritative text on amphibian medicine and husbandry (Wright and Whitaker 2001).

There is some interesting work being done in zoos in the realm of amphibian enrichment. Hurme et al. (2003) studied the behavioral changes in dendrobatid frogs effected by exhibit changes and random-release feeders. Amidon (2004) detailed a training protocol to get dendrobatids to emerge, station, and stall when cued; stalling was done in a plastic box, in which frogs could be removed for inspection and weighing.

Terri Roth of the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo conducts research to determine the role and significance of hibernation in breeding captive temperate toad species. Specific objectives include determining 1) if both sexes must be hibernated; 2) if exogenous hormones are necessary after animals have been hibernated; 3) how long the hibernation interval must be if it is necessary; and 4) if progesterone + hCG is a more effective hormone regimen for females compared to the standard LHRH protocol commonly used. The continuous outcome of this work is scientifically based recommendations regarding hibernation and hormone use for breeding endangered temperate toads in captivity. For additional information, see Obringer et al. (2000), Rowson et al. (2001), Kouba et al. (2003), and Roth and Obringer (2003). Andy Kouba, formerly of CRES, conducts similar research on temperate toad assisted reproductive technologies and also gamete cryopreservation at the Memphis Zoo, now with the assistance of Robert Browne. Browne has published on gamete cryopreservation (Browne et al. 1998, 2001, 2002) and conditions for maximizing larval growth (Browne and Edwards 2003, Browne et al. 2003) in Australian frogs and is now applying these techniques to imperiled American species.

The National Amphibian Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo sponsors visiting researchers to study their collection animals for 3-4 month terms ( http://www.detroitzoo.org/nacc). Our first researcher, Dr. Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, spent 3 months in the spring of 2004 studying play behavior and the effects of habitat complexity and has several manuscripts in preparation.

V. Financial support.

The AZA Conservation & Science Department administers the Conservation Endowment Fund (CEF). Since 1991, CEF has awarded over $2 million to support 138 projects benefiting wildlife worldwide. In addition, many individual AZA member institutions offer conservation grants (see Milam 1997), e.g., since 2000, Project Golden Frog (see account for Atelopus zeteki above) has been awarded over two dozen grants exceeding $50,000 in total from 16 AZA member institutions. In addition to supporting conservation and research through grants, zoos also support the organizations that share our goals. Since it was established in 1989, the majority of DAPTF funding has come from the zoo and aquarium community (J. Murphy, pers. com.).The Detroit Zoo underwrites the publication of the DAPTF’s journal Froglog. Of the 13 financial supporters of the 2001 SSAR symposium on declining amphibian populations, 9 were zoos and aquaria.

VI. Training and education (independent of species-specific conservation programs).

In addition to financial support, the zoo community also offers numerous opportunities for professional training. Several zoos have provided international training for conservation biologists (Waugh 1988, Wemmer et al. 1990). The Zoo Conservation Outreach Group (ZCOG ) is a non-profit consortium of North American zoological institutions, corporate partners, and individuals dedicated to assisting Latin American zoos and aquariums in their regional wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.

In April of 2004, the AZA sponsored a new course in its professional training series: Amphibian Biology & Management (http://www.aza.org/prodev/amphibians/). This 1-week course, hosted by the Detroit Zoo, brought together 21 keepers from Honolulu to Toronto, covering topics from the academic (evolution, classification, anatomy and physiology) to the pragmatic (husbandry, live food culture, veterinary care, exhibitry) and, of course, conservation. Plans are to repeat this course annually until demand subsides. Beyond zookeepers, this class is also open to academicians, museum biologists, anyone interested in this field of training.

In 1998, Melbourne Zoo staff conducted a three-day workshop on frog exhibitry and husbandry at Mysore Zoo in Chennai, India. Over 30 people attended from zoos and universities throughout India . At the 1999 meeting of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines at Puerto Princesa, the Melbourne Zoo also facilitated the first national assessment of Philippine amphibians (Banks 1999). The assessment resulted in recommendations that 30 additional species be added to both the Philippine Protected Species list and to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In conducting the assessment, it became apparent that community awareness of frogs in the Philippines was low. A community awareness program, funded by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Melbourne Zoo, and the University of the Philippines at Los Banos, was developed and conducted at several schools in south-central Luzon (Afuang et al. 2002).

In 1998, the Taronga Zoo, in conjunction with the Australian Stock Exchange, established a community-based conservation education program called Frog Focus. A website was established (www.asxfrogfocus.com) and an educational CD-ROM was produced with the assistance of all the major Australian zoos. Copies of the CD were distributed to every school in Australia (>10,000).

With the financial backing of the EPA, the AZA and the IUCN Declining Amphibian Population Task Force were able to develop a multimedia kit focusing on amphibian conservation issues. Amphibian Alert! is designed to help zoo and community educators reach school children in grades 2-5; it is available online at www.detroitzoo.org/ATAG/AmphibianAlert.pdf.

VII. A source of captive-bred animals.

It has been suggested by some that zoos (usually in conjunction with the commercial pet trade) represent a significant drain on wild animal populations. Pough et al. (1998), in a section called ‘Pets and Zoo Exhibits’, cite numerous statistics on commercial trade, but are unable to provide any information on zoos specifically. According to the ISIS Collection Management System (CMS) DVD (current 31 December 2003), there are 22,583 amphibians in reporting zoos around the world. Of the animals for which origin is reported, 70% are captive bred vs. wild caught. For some families like the Dendrobatidae, 92% of the animals with origins reported are captive bred.

VIII. Conclusions.

In summary, zoos have come a long way since the days of simple public menageries (see Rabb 1994). Our goals have shifted to include education, conservation, and science as primary emphases, and a common governing body (AZA) determines standards and ensures quality control. Zoos recognize their space limitations and inability to maintain genetically viable populations indefinitely. Consequently, we are coming to focus more on education (onsite, local outreach, and range country), emergency rescues (“temporary lifeboat vs. ark” paradigm shift), in situ studies, and financial and logistic support of wildlife science and conservation independent of our own activities. And we are learning that amphibians desperately need our help, can give us more conservation ‘bang for the buck’ with our limited resources vs. large mammals, and can be presented to the public in a way that leads to enthusiastic acceptance. We still have a long way to go, but we have also come so far. We open our doors and welcome the scientific community to utilize us as a resource and foster collaborations on wildlife science and conservation.

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Compiled by Kevin Zippel, Detroit Zoo, (ZippelK[at]zoo[dot]ci[dot]detroit[dot]mi[dot]us) with other contributors identified in each species’ section. Other invaluable feedback provided by Chris Banks (Melbourne Zoo), Trevor Beebee (University of Sussex), Robert Browne (Memphis Zoo), Richard Gibson (Zoological Society of London), Paula Kolvig (Moody Gardens), Amy Lind (UC Davis), Jim Murphy (National Zoo), Chad Peeling (Peeling’s Reptiland), Terri Roth (Cincinnati Zoo), and Andy Snider (Detroit Zoo).