Zoo Halts Zero-Hour for Fire-Bellied Toad

Frog Blog Manchester sent me ISO more information about the conservation efforts at Copenhagen Zoo for the fire-bellied toad...

The number of fire-bellied toads in this country halved during each decade of the 20th century. With just eight populations left in Denmark, animal experts are working overtime to save them.

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It is the dream of every zookeeper to work with animals that will be sent back into the wild to take care of themselves,’ said zookeeper Lene Vestergren of the Copenhagen Zoo’s Tropical House in an interview this week with daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende.
An endowment of DKK 6 million over a five-year period has been bequeathed by the EU-LIFE project to save exotic animal species in Europe; though when it comes to the mystique of the endangered stars of the animal kingdom, the tiny fire-bellied toad seems largely unexotic. Today, Lene Vestergren is part of a Copenhagen Zoo nursery project to breed endangered amphibians, where she is charged with the care of young fire-bellied toads being groomed to return to their homeland on the island of Hjortø, in Southern Funen.

The Hjortø population of fire-bellied toads is so rare that experts are unwilling to take chances on the toads reproducing successfully in their natural habitat. Five males and five females are currently under foster care at the Copenhagen Zoo, whilst the Terrarium in Vissenbjerg is hoping yet another team of Hjortø toads will be do their part to be fruitful and multiply. Berlingske Tidende reported this week that the fully-grown female fire-bellied toad is the size of a toothpick box, while the adult male is slightly smaller.

Toad habitats in Southern Funen, Avernakø, Hjortø, Western Zealand north of Kalundborg, and the Storebælt Coast in Southern Zealand have been identified in the EU Habitat Directive for the protection and improvement of endangered habitats. The EU is footing the bill for half of the fire-bellied toad rescue project, and the three so-called ‘Toad Counties’ are paying the rest.

This past spring, the Copenhagen Zoo took 600 tadpoles from Knudshoved Odde in Southern Zealand as part of the toad rescue project. By July, zoo officials reported, the small fry had grown into a population of 360 young fire-bellied toads that were reintroduced to their natural habitat.

In Danish, the toads are known as ‘bell frogs,’ because of the traditional springtime chirping that serves as a mating call from males to females. The sound of whole populations chirping together resembles the sound of distant church bells.

Source: The Copenhagen Post

Kirtland Peterson

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