May 13, 2009

Phoenix zoo nurses threatened frogs

More than 1,000 Chiricahua leopard frog tadpoles are getting a safe start in life in the Phoenix Zoo.

Scientists say that in the wild fewer than 100 of the 1,353 tiny tadpoles would be likely to survive through the summer and become frogs, The Arizona Republic reports. Many would be eaten by fish and others left high and dry in waterless ponds.

The zoo is participating in a federal and state conservation plan to increase leopard frog numbers. Researchers expect to have hundreds of frogs to release at summer's end, given the safety of a zoo tank.

As much as we do, as big as this project is, we could use another just like it, said Tara Sprankle, the conservation manager. We can't produce enough to fill all the sites where we can release them.

The frog eggs were gathered in the wild by volunteers and brought to the zoo for hatching. The zoo tries to provide ideal conditions for tadpoles, complete with climate control and clean water.

We want to produce the best specimens for release, the ones with the best chance of survival, Stuart Wells, the director of conservation, told the Republic.