The Detroit Zoological Society’s (DZS) conservation breeding program for the Wyoming Toad continues to make strides for this federally endangered amphibian. Seven hundred tadpoles have been produced in the Detroit Zoo’s National Amphibian Conservation Center and were scheduled to be shipped to Wyoming on July 5 for eventual release into the wild.
“It’s exciting to share our continued success with this program. We’ve had recording-breaking years in the past and are committed to ensuring the survival of this species as well as many others,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer. “Amphibians are the most endangered animals in the world, with more than 40 percent of all species at risk.”
The tadpoles were scheduled to be released into a protected Wyoming wetland in the Laramie Basin, where they will hopefully metamorphose into toadlets. The metamorphosis usually occurs in mid-July, and takes approximately four to five weeks.
The Wyoming Toad (Anaxyrus baxteri) is a dark brown, gray or greenish amphibian with small, dark blotches. The average length is 2.2 inches, with the females slightly larger than the males.
Once abundant in the wetlands and irrigated meadows of Wyoming’s southeastern plains, the Wyoming Toad was listed as extinct in 1994, meaning populations are no longer producing offspring that survive to adulthood in the wild. The cause of the decline is not well understood, but it is likely that more than one factor contributed to the situation in the past, with habitat loss and infectious diseases suspected as major drivers.
In 2007, the DZS’s collaborative breeding program for the Wyoming Toad was “No.1” on the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ list of the Top 10 wildlife conservation success stories. The breeding partnership has successfully released more than 8,000 tadpoles, toadlets and toads in Wyoming since the program’s inception in 1995. Once released, these latest tadpoles should add to that number.
The National Amphibian Conservation Center opened at the Detroit Zoo in 2000 and was distinguished as the first major conservation facility dedicated entirely to conserving and exhibiting amphibians. It houses a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians – including the Wyoming Toad. Dubbed “Disneyland for toads” by The Wall Street Journal, this award winning, state-of-the-art facility is world renowned for amphibian conservation, care, exhibition and research.