Extinct in the Wild, Kihansi Spray Toad on Exhibit at WCS's Bronx Zoo
New Exhibit Highlights the Work of WCS to Conserve a Species Extinct in the Wild
Bronx, NY – February 2, 2010 – The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo announced today the
opening of a new exhibit featuring the Kihansi spray toad, a species listed as extinct
in the wild last year by the International
Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The small, yellowish toad once occurred in large numbers but
was only found in a verdant, moist five-acre microhabitat in the Kihansi gorge
of Tanzania. This species is unusual among toads; females give birth to
live, fully-formed young, rather than laying eggs that hatch into free-living
“The Wildlife Conservation Society is taking a leading role
to ensure this toad does not disappear from the planet by playing an active
role in its conservation,” said Jim Breheny, WCS Senior Vice President of
Living Institutions and Director of the Bronx Zoo.
For the first time at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, visitors will be able
to see and learn about the Kihansi spray toad. The exhibit is as unique as its
inhabitants. Keeping the toads comfortable necessitated the construction
of a specialized system that filters, cools, and treats the water with ozone.
The treated water is then delivered to the animals through a series of nozzles
that create a fine mist within the enclosure.
For nine years, a team of herpetologists at the WCS’s Bronx
Zoo has been working behind the scenes on a conservation program intended to
save the Kihansi spray toad from disappearing altogether by propagating the
species for eventual reintroduction into its natural habitat.
What happened to the Kihansi spray toad?
In 2000, the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the
Kihansi Gorge of Tanzania was predicted to dramatically change the Kihansi
spray toad’s habitat. The micro-habitat where the toad lived was dependent on
the mist created by the waterfalls in the gorge. Although this dam is vital to
the Tanzanian economy in that it generates one-third of Tanzania’s total
electrical supply, its construction reduced the original size of the Kihansi
falls to 10 percent of its former flow, drastically lessening the mist zone in
which the toads thrived.
Following an agreement between WCS and the government of
Tanzania, WCS scientists and Tanzanian officials collected an assurance colony
of 499 Kihansi spray toads from the gorge. The small colony was brought back to New York to initiate
the off-site conservation program.
Scientists are still debating the ultimate cause of
extinction of this species in the wild, but it was probably a combination of habitat
change and the emergence of infective chytrid fungus, which is responsible for
alarming crashes and extinctions of amphibian species in many parts of the
world. The only remaining
population of Kihansi spray toads consists of more than 4,000 individuals
residing at WCS’s Bronx Zoo and the Toledo Zoo.
After being propagated at WCS’s Bronx Zoo for nine years,
the project is entering the repatriation stage where WCS is working with the
government of Tanzania and several international partners to return a small
population to a facility at the University of Dar es Salaam within the
next year. The Tanzanian
government has also been managing the Lower Kihansi Environment Management
Project in the gorge. A system of
sprinklers, replicating the toad’s habitat, has been installed in preparation
for the species’ return. The
ultimate goal of WCS and partners is to return the toads to the Kihansi gorge
when habitat conditions can be assured for their long-term survival.
Max Pulsinelli - 718-220-5182, firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Sautner - 718-220-3682, email@example.com
Steve Fairchild - 718-220-5189, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bronx Zoo, a Wildlife Conservation Society park, is open daily
from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day,
New Year's Day, and Martin Luther King Day. Adult admission is $15,
children (3-12 years old) $11, children under 3 are free, seniors (65+) are $13.
Parking is $12 for cars and $16 for buses. WCS’s Bronx Zoo is conveniently
located off the Bronx River Parkway at Exit 6; by train via the #2 or #5 or by
bus via the #9, #12, #19, #22, MetroNorth, or BxM11 Express Bus service (from
Manhattan that stops just outside the gate.) To plan your trip, visit www.bronxzoo.com or call 718-367-1010.
The Wildlife Conservation
Society saves wildlife and wild
places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation,
education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife
parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change
attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in
harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the
integrity of life on Earth.