- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) - The North Carolina Zoo has sent 400 crested toad tadpoles to their native home of Puerto Rico in an effort to save the critically endangered species.

The zoo currently has about 30 Puerto Rican crested toads that it is breeding, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported (http://bit.ly/2e1bumR).

The only toad native to Puerto Rico, the crested toad has always been rare, but its population has been especially hard hit by habitat loss and degradation, said Dustin Smith, the curator of reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates at the zoo.

“They were described for the first time over 150 years ago, and even then, only a few were found,” Smith said. “For more than half of their existence, they have been rare to the point where people thought they were extinct.”

Over the past 30 years, the population of crested toads in the wild has fluctuated between 300 and 3,000.

Since 1984, 19 institutions participating in a Species Survival Plan program have sent more than 350,000 tadpoles to Puerto Rico.

Scientists recently visited breeding sites on the north side of the island and determined that the results have been “moving in the right direction,” Smith said.

Still, he cautioned against declaring the project a success too early.

“We can’t say it’s a definite success yet because we have to see how long this can be sustained,” Smith said. “That’s the question with all projects like these: whether or not they’re sustainable in the wild.”

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Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com

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