Rare Tanzanian toads flown home from U.S.

Fri Aug 20, 2010 11:52am EDT
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DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters Life!) - Tiny Tanzanian toads that had been declared extinct only a few years after their discovery have been sent home to replenish stocks after being reared in U.S. zoos.

At the time of its discovery in 1996, the rare Kihansi Spray Toad was living in a five acre area, thriving under the waterfall spray of the nearby Kihansi Gorge, the only area in the world where the toad is known to live.

It was declared extinct last year after its habitat was disturbed by the construction of the Kihansi hydroelectric dam 10 years previously. The dam reduced the water flow by 10 times.

Before the last time the toads were seen in the wild, in 2004, some 500 toads were flown to Bronx and Toledo zoos in the United States and 100 have now been sent back home.

"The toads now reside at a new, state-of the-art propagation center in Dar es Salaam ... with the eventual goal of reintroducing them into their former habitat," the World Bank said in a statement.

Tanzania has installed a sprinkler system in Kihansi to replicate the toad's habitat before its return. The World Bank, which funded the dam's construction, also funded the conservation exercise.

The spray toad is an unusual species among toads as its females give birth to live, fully-formed young, rather than laying eggs that hatch into free-living tadpoles.

(Writing by George Obulutsa, Editing by Helen Nyambura)