Status: Extinct in the Wild
These fascinating toads had originally only been found in the spray zone of the Kihansi waterfalls – a space of around 220,000 sq ft; the smallest natural distribution for any known vertebrate species. Then, in 1995 construction started on the Kihansi Dam which drastically reduced the waterfalls’ flow, and thereby its spray zone as well. Once the wonderful mists began to disappear, so too did the Kihansi Spray Toad. They were last seen in the wild in 2004. Now, the only places you can find Kihansi Spray Toads are in zoos.
The Bronx Zoo initiated a project where almost 500 Kihansi spray toads were taken from their native gorge in 2001 and places in six different zoos to try and prevent total extinction. But because of its unusual life style and reproduction habits, only the Bronx Zoo and the Toledo Zoo maintained populations. Not only do these toads need a very specific habitat, but females don’t even lay eggs. Instead, they give birth to fully formed toadlets – exact replicas of their larger adult selves (see photo 1 for the best comparison in size).
By December 2004, less than 70 remained in captivity, but after careful observation it was determined what their exact requirements were to breed and survive. In November 2005, the Toledo Zoo opened an exhibit for the Kihansi Spray Toad, and for some time this was the only place in the world where it was on display to the public. Now both the Toledo Zoo and Bronx Zoo have several thousand Kihansi Spray Toads and smaller populations are kept at a few other zoos as well.
The hope is that these toads can be reintroduced into the wild and a project has already begun to do just that! Find out more here.