Houston Zoo staff and collaborators released 775,000 Houston toad eggs from the Zoo back into the Texas wild in 2016! Our work continues to help save this critically endangered local species.
What is a Houston Toad?
The Houston toad (Anaxyrus [Bufo] houstonensis) is only found today in areas of deep, sandy soil in east-central Texas, and nowhere else in the world. Though previously found in high densities in Harris County and eleven other Texas counties, urban expansion, habitat fragmentation, pollution, and drought have significantly diminished their range. As a result, the Houston toad hasn’t been seen in Houston since the 1970’s.
While it was once one of the most abundant toads found at ponds in early spring, it is estimated that only to 150 to 300 Houston toads remain in the wild. Now more than ever it is critical that we help this native Texan in need! The Houston Zoo has partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas State University, and Texas Parks and Wildlife in an effort to recover the wild Houston toad population. Our goal is to keep this unique amphibian species from being lost to extinction forever.
How the Houston Zoo is aiding in the recovery effort:
- The zoo maintains a ~1,200 ft2 Houston toad quarantine facility that serves as a location for the captive breeding and head-starting of wild Houston toad egg strands for release into the wild. This facility is managed by two, full-time Houston toad specialists who care for the toads and work closely with the program partners in the breed-and-release efforts.
- The Houston zoo also serves as an “ark” for the species by maintaining captive toads. Each one of these toads has high genetic importance and will be used to breed future generations of toads for release into the wild. ~1,950 Houston toad tadpoles were transferred from the Houston Zoo to Texas State University for release into native habitat as of January 2015.
- Our toad staff regularly participates in educational and outreach events on zoo grounds and in the community to help educate local people about the plight of the Houston toad. In 2013, ambassador Houston toads made 15+ appearances across greater Houston area!
- We have established collaborative, conservation-based Houston toad research projects with local universities including Rice University and the University of Saint Thomas. The goal of these projects is to aid in the recovery effort, as well as inspire the next generation of local conservationists!
Donate today and help Houston toads!
How You Can Help Wild Houston Toads:
- Do you live or own property in the following counties and want to aid in the recovery effort? Now more than ever we’re relying on private landowners to help us save the toad! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Counties of interest: Bastrop, Lee, Burleson, Milam, Robertson, Leon, Lavaca, Colorado, Austin
- Take the family and visit Bastrop State park, the only remaining state-protected area where Houston toads can still be found! A portion of your entrance fees goes towards the park’s conservation efforts and habitat recovery.
- Limit pesticide use in your yard and plant native plants when possible! Pesticides are harmful to all amphibian species, including the Houston toad, so reducing the amount of pesticides in the environment will ultimately help the long-term survival of the toad. Native plant use helps wildlife by providing appropriate food sources. In the case of toads, native plants bring in the right type of insects (but don’t worry about having too many bugs – hungry toad won’t leave too many around!)
- Follow us on our blog for updates on the program and releases.
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