(NEWS RELEASE) – The Memphis Zoo recently led the release of 622 critically endangered dusky gopher frogs into the wild, the largest ever release of captive-bred individuals of this species.
The frogs came from breeding programs at Memphis Zoo as well as Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and Detroit Zoo. The frogs were released this week at their natural habitat in the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area near Moss Point, Mississippi.
Before this release, there were only an estimated 200 adult dusky gopher frogs in the wild, a species native to coastal Mississippi.
The release is part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan, or SSP, which is an ongoing program in place at 12 zoos in the United States. The goal of the SSP is to reinstate a healthy population of dusky gopher frogs in the wild. Memphis Zoo’s Director of Conservation and Research, Dr. Steve Reichling, is leading the program.
Since 2005, Memphis Zoo’s department of Conservation and Research has been working to breed dusky gopher frogs in captivity. Unfortunately, after years of effort, it was determined the frogs would not breed naturally in captivity and the Zoo began to explore other breeding methods. In 2009, the Zoo successfully bred their first dusky gopher frogs using in vitro fertilization and this is the breeding method used today.