Twenty-five dusky gopher frogs that were bred at the Detroit Zoo's National Amphibian Conservation Center were released in Mississippi's Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area this month.
The event was part of a cooperative program to restore a wild population of the critically endangered amphibian.
It was the first time the Detroit Zoo-born frogs were released into their native habitat. Three other zoos – Omaha, Memphis and Dallas – also participated in the event, together releasing more than 300 frogs. They were tagged with identification to track their survival.
“It was gratifying to watch the frogs hopping off into the pond and peering at us on the shoreline – they looked completely at home, snapping at flies and acting like frogs,” said Dr. Ruth Marcec, director of the National Amphibian Conservation Center at the Detroit Zoo.
Dusky gopher frogs are nearly extinct, with an estimated population of less than 135 adults left in the wild, making it one of the top 100 most endangered species in the world, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
“With nearly half of the world’s known 7,878 amphibian species threatened with extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, infectious diseases and other factors, bolstering the population of these amphibians in their natural environment is critical to their survival,” Marcec said.