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Returning Captive-Bred Frogs to the Wild

07/25/2017

The end goal of captive breeding programs is to manage these populations by increasing their numbers and genetic diversity so that in the near future, they may be released back into their ancestral home ranges. As such, breeding programs serve as “arks” for Endangered and Critically Endangered Species that cannot survive on their own in the wild and serve as a means to save them. In some cases, however, releasing a species back in to the wild is simply not possible; habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflicts, emerging diseases, or a combination of these and other factors have all but eliminated natural populations along with their habitats and along. Thus diminishing any hopes of reintroducing them safely into the wild.

The amphibian extinction crisis, brought to the light in the early 90’s, presented such a problem. Species of frogs, toads, and salamanders were disappearing from their home ranges at alarming rates and we had no clue of why, and what to do to stop this mass extinction. As a result, after years of effort, zoos and other institutions began housing these species assurance populations that would guarantee their survival even if considered extinct in the wild.

We began saving amphibian species back in 2009 in Ecuador, where we teamed up with the local Zoo Amaru and established the Amphibian Conservation Center in the city of Cuenca. Here we work with captive breeding programs for 12 different local amphibian species, some of which were thought to be extinct. Almost ten years later, we are gearing up to release our first batch of marsupial frogs and Andean rocket frogs in the area. In addition, we are revving up our breeding efforts for the Cajas stubfoot toad and the Azuay stubfoot toad, in the hopes that we can begin releasing programs for those two species in the near future.

I am currently in Ecuador devising the reintroduction plans and monitoring programs for these species. Follow me in the following days as we meet with local government agencies and community leaders and visit potential sites for the reintroduction of these species.