Zoo replenishes endangered toads in Puerto Rico

The Zoo's ectotherm department recently sent 3,774 Puerto Rican Crested Toad tadpoles to Puerto Rico as part of an ongoing conservation project to save the critically endangered species in its native habitat.

“I am thrilled with the conservation accomplishments that Nashville Zoo staff and collaborators have been able achieve over the last several years,” said Dale McGinnity, ectotherm curator. “Since 2012, we have produced over 5,000 endangered Puerto Rican Crested Toad tadpoles for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to release back into their native habitat in Puerto Rico.”

The Puerto Rican Crested Toad, the only native toad to the island, is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2004 and is currently limited to one remaining wild population in the Guanica National Forest in the southern part of the island. In 2013, 38,000 tadpoles produced at 10 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) institutions were released into protected ponds in the Guanica National Forest. Upon release, the tadpoles were monitored by the USFWS and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) until they metamorphosed and dispersed from the release pond.

Nashville Zoo has been working to breed the Puerto Rican crested toad since acquiring the species in 2008, but was not successful until 2012 with the introduction of a horomone cocktail called Amphiplex. The Zoo successfully used the same hormone preparation, developed by Vance Trudeau, University Research Chair in Neuroendocrinology at the Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, to successfully breed hellbenders.

Adult Puerto Rican Crested Toads can be seen in the Unseen New World as part of the Amphibians in Crisis exhibits.