We’re always wild about wildlife, but now we have an excuse to talk about why all month long. Every year, July is dedicated to education about the work and progress toward the protection of wildlife around the world. For this year’s Wild about Wildlife Month, we’d like to kick it off by sharing some of our conservation successes over the past year. For more conservation stories, check out the rest of our Conservation Blog right here on our website.
Puerto Rican crested toad
Since 2006, Zoo staff has coordinated and managed a Puerto Rican crested toad conservation program, under the direction of Fort Worth Zoo Curator of Ectotherms Diane Barber. This project includes implementing a breeding program to successfully reestablish healthy, self-sustaining populations of this critically endangered amphibian in its natural habitat. Even through multiple hurricanes and ongoing habitat alteration, Zoo staff has continued conservations efforts on behalf of this vulnerable species and remains determined to ensure the survival of the Puerto Rican crested toad.
As the longest continuous reintroduction program of any amphibian species, the Puerto Rican crested toad project has released more than 510,000 tadpoles at six reintroduction sites since 1992 – the Fort Worth Zoo alone has released 70,988 of those tadpoles. While continuous monitoring efforts in Puerto Rico are made difficult by major weather events and crested toad hibernation habits, Zoo staff remains confident that these reintroduction methods are working due to regular reproduction of captive released tadpoles at the majority of these reintroduction sites.
More than 60 Pecos pupfish hatched at the Zoo this spring. This vulnerable species is currently under review by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to be listed as a federally endangered species as it continues to disappear from its native region. This is due in part to drought in the region, intensive water use by humans, pollution, the invasion of non-native plants and introduced species. Add the accidental introduction of the non-native sheepshead minnow to pupfish habitat, which sparked hybridizing between the two species, and you have a grim result: the near disappearance of the pupfish.
Since 2012, the Fort Worth Zoo has been involved in the conservation of this fish through its breeding program. An assurance population of the pupfish are bred and housed at the Zoo. This assurance population exists in case another catastrophic event devastates the wild pupfish population, in which case the assurance population will be released into the native habitat. Most of the conservation work takes place behind the scenes, but you can see some of the pupfish and learn more about their plight in the Mountains & Desert exhibit in Texas Wild!.
These little species have a big impact
Although small in size, toads and fish are essential to the balance of the overall ecosystem. Fish are vital to healthy nutrient cycles in their environments, because through their tissues, excretion and migratory patterns they transport essential nutrients farther than any other aquatic animal. This in turn affects the production of algae and other aquatic plant life, the population that feeds on this plant life, and the larger animals who feed on those populations. Frogs and toads make a similar impact within the environments they inhabit, as well. Think of it this way: it’s important to care for these small species because their survival affects the entire food chain and keeps the overall ecosystem balanced, regulated and healthy.
We’re thinking pink for this week's #WildlifeWednesday feature as we highlight conservation efforts on behalf of the lesser flamingo, one of the four species of flamingo housed here at the Fort Worth Zoo. As one of the hardest species of flamingo to breed in captivity, the Fort Worth Zoo’s introduction of a revolutionary indoor breeding strategy in 2002 has made our institution the No. 1 lesser flamingo breeding facility in the world, and helped countless other institutions successfully breed the pink bird. This breeding strategy ultimately helps to create a genetically healthy and diverse breeding population, which will aid in the survival of this species for generations to come.
Chiricahua leopard frog
The Fort Worth Zoo is one of only two zoos in North America to work with this species and has introduced more than 1,280 tadpoles into the wild in the past five years. This amphibian can be differentiated from other species by the male's distinct mating call used to attract females that sounds like a loud, trilling snore.
Did you know there are over 35 different iguana species? The Zoo works closely with conservation efforts on behalf of four distinct species: the Anegada, Jamaican, Roatan spiny-tailed, and Turks and Caicos iguana. Read more about each species and the work we’re doing for them on our conservation blog.
Fort Worth Zoo staff founded the International Iguana Foundation, which leads the charge in providing support, restoration and programs on behalf of iguanas around the world. This foundation is one of seven nonprofit conservation organizations founded at the Fort Worth Zoo.