SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Zoo sent more than 18,000 tadpoles of the critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad to Puerto Rico last week where they were released back into their natural habitat.
It’s a new record for the species, according to the zoo, which sent more than 5,000 tadpoles to Puerto Rico last year.
The species is critically endangered with the population fluctuating between 1,000 and 5,000 adult toads in the Guanica National Forest.
“The first time San Antonio Zoo began contributing to the program as a breeding institution was 2010,” said Craig Pelke, director of ectotherms at San Antonio Zoo in a press release. “Since that time, there had been good success…any time you can place a critically endangered species back in the wild is good. However, we wanted ‘great.’”
The zoo individually identifies and tracks the Puerto Rican Crested Toads. The zoo’s toads are kept in isolation in a bio-secure room away from the general zoo population to prevent cross-contamination and illness.
The herpetology team hand counts the hatched tadpoles, gently packages them and ships them overnight to Puerto Rico.
“A couple of years ago, we decided to revamp our entire operation across the board by improving housing, husbandry, and diet. In 2021 we ended up breaking previous records by over half, and this year we again broke our institutional record and ended up producing more tadpoles than all our other years combined,” Pelke said.
The Puerto Rican crested toad, with its long, upturned snout and crest above the eyes, can be difficult to track in the wild because it’s nocturnal and there aren’t very many of them, zoo officials said.
The San Antonio Zoo began breeding Puerto Rican crested toads in 2010 with The Puerto Rican Crested Toad Conservancy (PRCTC) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
The PRCTC works to protect and restore the toad’s habitats and creates new ponds for them.
Since 2010, the San Antonio Zoo has released more than 34,000 tadpoles in Puerto Rico.
Click here to learn more about the zoo’s conservation efforts.