Extinct Toads to Return Home
Image credit: Tim Herman/IUCN
The Kinhansi spray toad was first discovered in 1996 when it's tiny five-acre habitat in Tanzania was surveyed for inclusion in massive hydro-electric dam project. Though the dam was built upstream, it reduced Kinhansi falls to 10 percent of its original flow, drying the mist zone that made up the toads' home.
By 2009, the IUCN declared the toad extinct in the wild.
Now, a population of captive-bred spray toads are ready to make the transition from the zoo to the wild—giving this unique species a second chance at survival.SLIDESHOW: Best and Worst of 2009: Critically Endangered Species at the End of the Year
Though the dam project presented a clear risk to the toads, it was too valuable to the country—it now produces a third of Tanzania's electricity—at the time to stop. Fortunately, scientists were able to collect an assurance colony of 499 toads before the flow of the falls was stemmed.
Since then, the toads have been happy residents of the Toledo Zoo and the Bronx Zoo, where the species has proliferated in captivity. Currently, the zoos house 5,000 and 1,500 toads respectively, but have collectively sent 100 to a special transition facility in Tanzania.
To prepare the gorge for the toads' return, a system of sprinklers has been installed to add moisture to the area.
Even with these efforts, recovery will be no simple matter. In addition to a degraded habitat, the toads will also face threats from pesticides and chytrid fungus.
If successful, however, this rare toad—the only species to give birth to live young instead of eggs—may take the nearly impossible step from "extinct" to "critically endangered."