You aren’t going to see this guy on the big screen any time soon, but he and others just like him may end up in their native habitat very soon. This tiny toad is the world’s first Puerto Rican crested toad hatched from in-vitro fertilization (IVF) utilizing frozen semen collected from the wild.
The Fort Worth Zoo and its partners from Mississippi State University came together at the Fort Worth Zoo this summer to continue their efforts with assisted reproduction technology (ART) for critically endangered amphibians. For the first time ever, they were able to successfully conduct IVF using the eggs from two Zoo females and frozen semen from six wild males. To celebrate this conservation success, the first egg to be fertilized and hatched has been named Olaf! (Yep, just like that Olaf.)
This is a significant advancement for the critically endangered species as it will allow zoos, researchers and other conservationists to expand their population genetics used to increase the overall population while keeping the toads in their wild, natural habitat. These ART efforts will help maintain a genetically diverse, self-sustaining population of toads in the managed population without removing animals from the wild!
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. Through this cooperative program, thousands of Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles are released into the wild each year. As the longest continuous reintroduction program for any amphibian species, the Puerto Rican crested toad project has released over 510,000 tadpoles at six reintroduction sites since 1992 – the Fort Worth Zoo alone has released 70,988 of those tadpoles.