The Vancouver Aquarium is helping one of the world’s most at-risk amphibians by raising and releasing hundreds of healthy Northern Leopard Frog tadpoles into the wilds of British Columbia, Canada.
The release is part of the Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team’s efforts to restore a species that was once widespread across Canada. Beginning in the 1970s, millions of frogs died, leaving just one small group of Northern Leopard Frogs remaining in western Canada. The Rocky Mountain population of this species is listed as Endangered in Canada.
Vancouver Aquarium was the first aquarium to breed the Frogs in captivity as an assurance population in case the wild population completely collapsed. A collaboration with researchers at the University of Ottawa utilizes hormones to induce spawning and mating behavior in the captive frogs.
Each year, tadpoles and young frogs bred at the aquarium are released back into the wild in suitable habitats to reestablish the species. By rearing the young in captivity, a process called “headstarting,” the odds of survival to adulthood are increased. Over the last five years, the aquarium has released thousands of Northern Leopard Frog tadpoles.
Headstarting programs are emerging as an important tool for rebuilding wild animal populations, and zoos and aquariums are perfectly suited for such projects. Zoos and aquariums have the expertise and facilities to care for and breed amphibians such as these frogs.
“We’re beginning to see the impact of our efforts to repopulate B.C.’s most at-risk amphibian, and have found animals that have survived the winter and are being located again year after release,” said Kris Rossing, senior biologist at Vancouver Aquarium. “Frogs are an important indicator species of environmental health. Overall, we’ve seen our conservation efforts make a difference, as we collectively move the needle a little bit every year through this vital program.”