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Published July 22, 2011

A tiny toad, previously found only under a 3,000 Tanzania waterfall, went extinct in the wild, but is thriving in a lab in Syracuse, NY. The Kihansi spray toad is little more than an inch in length.

© 2011 National Geographic; video courtesy SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry


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A tiny toad from Tanzania is extinct in the wild, but thriving in a lab in Syracuse, New York.

The Kihansi Spray Toad, which ranges from just 1 to 1.5 inches in length, is believed to have lived only under a 3,000 foot waterfall on the Kihansi River in southeastern Tanzania.

Construction of a dam upriver reduced the flow of the waterfall, and the resulting spray needed by the toads. But before the population of toads declined, about 500 were relocated.

Their numbers continued to decline until, when just 50 remained, they were stabilized enough to begin breeding successfully again.

Researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry are hoping the survivors can be placed back in their natural habitat.

SOUNDBITE: Chelsae Radell, Senior, Camden, NY - “The reason the Kihansi spray toad has gone extinct in the wild, is because of human impacts. They are native to a 4 hectare wetland on the side of a waterfall in Tanzania. So, they weren’t discovered until they were starting to decline. The only reason they were discovered is because a hydroelectric dam was being built in the Kihansi Gorge upstream of where they’re found. “

SOUNDBITE: Brooke Reeve, Masters Candidate, Waverly, NY - “But they crashed suddenly, so a lot of people think that it could have either been that the dam released a bunch of sediments that were contaminated with pesticides and one of those was endosulfan and that’s what we’re testing here. And another idea is the chytrid fungus, which has been a problem for amphibian populations around the globe. “

SOUNDBITE: Chelsae Radell, Senior, Camden, NY - “They’re really unique little frogs. They’re one of the few that give live birth. They don’t have a tadpole stage.

SOUNDBITE: Brooke Reeve, Masters Candidate, Waverly, NY - “The hope is now to try and get these guys back in the wild really soon. And there’s a good chance. They’re really prolific breeders. “

SOUNDBITE: Chelsae Radell, Senior, Camden, NY - “They rely so heavily on the spray. They live in the spray zone. So they require 22 hours of misting a day. And so they need to be in a wetland habitat on the side of a waterfall.

Another biologist working on the project says the toad might be the four-legged vertebrate species with the smallest range in the world. And they’re hopeful they can survive in that range again.

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