Press Release From The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research
April 15, 2010
The endangered mountain yellow-legged frog (Rana muscosa) will take a major step in its recovery this week when, for the first time, scientists reintroduce its eggs to its former habitat. This reintroduction will occur at University of California Riverside’s James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve, part of the University of California Natural Reserve System, and will be done in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. Once common throughout much of southern California, the mountain yellow-legged frog has been decreasing in numbers since the 1970s due to what scientists call the “perfect storm” that is affecting frog populations around the globe — decreasing habitat, increasing pollution and invasive species, the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus and the effects of climate change. Today, only a small wild population of less than 200 individuals can be found in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains.
In 2006, scientists collected mountain yellow-legged frog tadpoles from the remaining wild populations in the San Jacinto Mountains and took them to the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research where, for the first time, specialists were able to establish a captive breeding program for the species. This year’s reproductive season at the Zoo has been so successful that scientists have decided to attempt a reintroduction into the wild.
There are 61 mountain yellow-legged frogs at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. Scientists attempted to spur breeding in January by putting half of that population into a cooler that mimicked high mountain winter conditions. The chill caused the frogs to hibernate. About two weeks ago the frogs were taken out of the coolers and began displaying breeding behaviors within a few days. “Three months ago the San Diego Zoo started an experimental procedure of chilling these frogs to see how it would affect breeding. It has been wildly successful and as a result today we can reintroduce about 500 eggs into the San Jacinto Mountains” said Jeff Lemm Research Coordinator for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research “This is a momentous day – the first reintroduction of these endangered frog eggs ever back into their natural habitat and the San Diego Zoo is thrilled to be a part of it”. They selected the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve for this reintroduction because it is a protected area with ideal habitats in the species’ former range.
The mountain yellow-legged frog is one of three Southern California frog or toad species on the Federal Endangered Species List. Biologists from the USGS will be responsible for the initial phase of the reintroduction, and will be releasing egg masses into deep permanent pools, followed by the additional release of tadpoles later in the year. They will then closely monitor the health and success of the reintroduction. It will take two years for the tadpoles to morph into adults and as they are not a migratory species the frogs will stay in the creek within the bounds of the protected reserve where they can be easily monitored. “This is an amazing first step in the recovery program for this wonderful frog, and we are looking forward to having the frogs here for a long time to come” said Becca Fenwick, Director of the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve.
For more information please contact Adam Backlin, Ecologist for the USGS; (714) 508 4702, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dani Dodge Medlin, San Diego Zoo’s Public Relations Representative; (619) 685 3291. Photo and video of the release will be made available Friday by the San Diego Zoo.
The James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve is one of thirty-six University of California run reserves throughout the state protecting over 135,000 acres. The Natural Reserve System was established in 1965 to protect and make available natural lands for research, university level instruction and public outreach. The system of reserves broadly represents California’s rich ecological diversity, provides protected locations for long-term study and opportunities for outdoor education. The NRS is the largest university operated system of natural reserves in the world. For more information on the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve, or the NRS contact Becca Fenwick or visit www.jamesreserve.edu
USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to
conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for
the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and
trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific
excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated
professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
The San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research is dedicated to generating, sharing and applying scientific knowledge vital to the conservation of animals, plants and habitats worldwide. The work of the Institute includes onsite research efforts at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, laboratory work the at Arnold and Beckman Center for Conservation Research, and international field programs involving more than 180 researchers working in 35 countries. In addition to the Beckman Center for Conservation Research, the Institute also operates the Anne and Kenneth Griffin Reptile Conservation Center, the Botanical Conservation Center, the Keauhou and Maui Hawaiian Bird Conservation Centers and the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo. The important conservation and science work of the entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.
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