News / Toronto

Thousands of Toronto Zoo crested toad tadpoles shipped to Puerto Rico

Over 6,000 tadpoles that will be released in a Puerto Rican natural reserve, part of a breeding program to help save the critically endangered species.

The Puerto Rican crested toad, shown here at the Toronto Zoo, is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Torstar News Service file / Torstar News Service Order this photo

The Puerto Rican crested toad, shown here at the Toronto Zoo, is listed as a critically endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Puerto Rican crested toads at the Toronto Zoo are the proud parents of more than 6,000 tadpoles that will be released in a Puerto Rican natural reserve Wednesday, part of a breeding program to help save the critically endangered species.

Andrew Lentini, curator of amphibians and reptiles at Toronto Zoo, said the zoo has put 145,000 tadpoles into the wild over the years.

Zoo officials play matchmaker with the 60 or so toads in Toronto, based on how genetically different they are, and put them in a “breeding chamber,” which mimics rainfall in their native habitat, he said.

“We also play taped toad calls of male Puerto Rican toads, and that gets our guys in the mood as well,” Lentini said.

“They think there’s competition around and it’s time to breed.”

The pairs “typically spawn overnight and the next morning we find all these long strands of little black eggs,” he added.

Before the program started, the wild crested toad population was limited to a single region in Puerto Rico and the entire species was in danger of being wiped out by a hurricane, Lentini said.

The population has since spread to three more areas around Puerto Rico, a big victory for conservationists.

“Basically we don’t want all our eggs in one basket," Lentini said.

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