Comprehensive story in today’s Houston Chronicle about the groundbreaking work being done on the amphibian crisis by the Houston Zoo, specifically to save both the Panamanian Golden Frog and the Houston toad. Nice to see that Jeff Corwin’s quoted, along with Joe Mendelson of Zoo Atlanta, both longtime figures with Amphibian Ark. Excerpts:
The Houston Zoo, among a handful of U.S. zoos to successfully breed golden frogs in captivity, stepped in to help the frog on its home turf, building the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center in the Panamanian mountains to provide refuge for golden frogs and other amphibians threatened by chytrid. Ultimately, the goal is to release them back into the wild, although no one knows when, or even if, that will be possible. The conservation center hopes to open a public viewing area in El Valle later this year, according to Bill Konstant, director of science and conservation for the Houston Zoo. It also plans to establish a satellite colony at Summit Zoo in Panama City, allowing more people to see the frogs that once thrived in the wild. That will coincide with a Year of the Frog awareness campaign, set to launch in Panama on Feb. 29, Leap Day.
The story talks about a Texas species that also needs a lot of help — the Houston toad.
Brown and dry, it looks pretty much like the Gulf Coast toad that may be living in your backyard. The Houston toad once ranged from east of Houston to Bastrop but hasn’t been seen in Houston since 1976. The only remaining colony large enough to sustain itself is in Bastrop County, protected in Bastrop State Park and on private land whose owners have agreed to help. The toads are also found in a few other counties but in groups too small to be assured of survival. The toads burrow into sandy soil, seeking refuge from summer heat and winter cold. They need still or slow-flowing water to breed, usually a small pond, blocked sections of creek or seeping springs. The first Houston toad infected by the chytrid fungus was found in Bastrop in 2006, but scientists don’t yet know whether that is contributing to the dwindling numbers. The zoo first tried to boost the Houston toad population in the 1980s, with limited success. Last year, it tried again as part of the federal species-recovery plan designed for the toad.