The tadpoles were flown this week from Florida to the island where their ancestors lived, helping save a species.
The only species of toad native to Puerto Rico is now critically endangered, but ZooTampa contributed to the survival of this important species by sending thousands of newborn tadpoles to help restore the population on their home island.
The Puerto Rican crested toad It once flourished on the island, but prior to 1967 the amphibian was thought to be extinct due to loss of habitat due to urban development, natural disasters, and competition from invasive species that feed on its young.
An essential part of the island’s ecosystem, which feeds on insects that are pests to humans, scientists estimate that fewer than 3,000 adult toads remain in the wild.
Currently, ZooTampa is one of the few zoos in the world that participates in the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums with the aim of repopulating this species by breeding and shipping tadpoles to Puerto Rico.
The zoo’s herpetology and veterinary teams oversaw the delicate reproductive process of the crested toad pairs: from careful control of habitat temperature that stimulates the island’s rainy season, to the reproduction of the “Barry White version. “From the toad mating calls, several important steps were taken to ensure that the toads produced fertilized eggs.
“These tadpoles represent hope for this critically endangered species,” said Dan Costell, associate curator of herpes and aquatic animals. “Reinforcing the population of these toads in their natural environment is a true victory for conservation and is at the core of our mission at ZooTampa.”
The tadpoles were quickly counted and packaged in protected shipping boxes filled with oxygen to keep the tadpoles healthy and safe on their journey to their homeland, where biologists will release them into protected managed ponds.
It was a race against the clock, as there is only an 8-day window between when fertilized eggs begin to hatch into tadpoles and when biologists must release them on the island.
The efforts of everyone involved are now resulting in chirps of joy, from both toads and humans, on the Isle of Enchantment.
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