VANCOUVER, B.C. – For the ninth consecutive year, Vancouver Aquarium®, an Ocean Wise® initiative, has released endangered Oregon spotted frog tadpoles into the wild in an effort to bolster the local population of the most endangered amphibian species in Canada. Later than expected, due to a colder, longer winter, almost 1,000 tadpoles produced at Vancouver Aquarium were transferred to B.C.’s Fraser Valley on Thursday, May 17. A total of 580 tadpoles were released into a suitable native habitat, 320 were transferred to the Greater Vancouver Zoo where they will continue to grow before being released into the wild this fall, and 100 were transferred to Simon Fraser University to contribute to ongoing climate change studies. In close collaboration with Amphibian Ark (AArk) and the Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team, Vancouver Aquarium has produced more than 20,000 Oregon spotted frog tadpoles for release since 2010.
The tadpoles were released on the eve of Endangered Species Day and days after the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) released survey* results exploring public perception of endangered species. The survey was conducted by AZA on behalf of the Vancouver Aquarium and its more than 230 accredited members around the world. Results indicated that Americans drastically underestimate the number of endangered species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and believe it covers 80 to 100 animals; this is less than one-tenth of the actual 1,459 species listed. The survey also indicated a resounding 87 per cent are willing to help save animals from extinction.
“Oregon spotted frogs are aquatic animals so they spend most of their lives in water. They’re camouflaged in their wetland habitat and are quick to hide following disturbances. They’re a challenge to find even when you’re actively looking so it’s safe to assume that many people don’t know these frogs exist let alone know that they are endangered and need our help,” said Darren Smy, senior aquarium biologist at Vancouver Aquarium. “Every year we learn more about the species, including its reproductive needs which helps us continually refine and optimize our breeding practices and contribute to the wild population. At the same time, more and more people are learning about frogs, the important role they play in the ecosystem, and how we all can help with conservation efforts. While the road to recovery for the Oregon spotted frog will be long one, we remain hopeful.”
In recent years, the Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team has seen promising positive indicators of Oregon spotted frogs at release sites, including environmental DNA (or eDNA) in collected water samples as well as egg masses and juvenile frogs thought to have been bred in the wild or been a surviving Aquarium-bred tadpole. The Recovery Team has also discovered four additional established wild populations – two in 2015 and two in 2017 – bringing the total to seven. These discoveries are signs that tadpoles and adult frogs released in previous years are healthy and growing and the program is successful in supplementing and conserving the wild population.
Early last century, there were hundreds of thousands of Oregon spotted frogs, ranging from northern California up into B.C.’s Fraser Valley. Historically, B.C. populations were found from South Surrey to Hope but due to habitat destruction, the introduction of non-native species such as Eastern Canada’s bullfrog and the reed canary grass, increased pollution as well as disease, their numbers have declined as much as 90 per cent. Oregon spotted frogs spend most of their lives in the water and require connected wetlands and floodplains for habitat.
In an effort to protect this endangered species, the Aquarium joined B.C.’s Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Team in 2000. A diverse group of biologists and land managers in B.C. are coordinating efforts to conserve, manage, and recover the Oregon spotted frog in Canada. Since 2007, Aquarium staff has been collecting Oregon spotted frog eggs to establish an aquarium-based assurance population. In 2010, the Aquarium became the world pioneer to breed this species in human care.
The Oregon Spotted Frog Recovery Program includes habitat management, monitoring, research, and restoration conducted in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Environment; B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations; Canadian Wildlife Service; Department of National Defense; Seabird Island Band; Stó:lo Tribal Council; District of Kent; Fraser Valley Regional District; Greater Vancouver Zoo; Toronto Zoo; Vancouver Aquarium; Mountain View Conservation Centre; Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife; Wildlife Preservation Trust Canada; Simon Fraser University; University of British Columbia; B.C. Conservation Foundation; and Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition.
The Vancouver Aquarium is also part of a worldwide effort, along with other zoos and aquariums, to conserve other amphibian species under the Amphibian Ark (AArk) project.
*Results are based on a 12-question online survey conducted from March 8 to 12, 2018 among a representative sample of 1,002 American adults (aged 18+) and weighted to ensure national representation across gender, region, education, income, and race/ethnicity. The margin of error — which measures sample variability — is +/- 3.07 percentage points with a 95 per cent confidence level.
Ocean Wise is a not-for-profit organization whose vision is a world in which oceans are healthy and flourishing. www.ocean.org
Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, is one of the world’s leading accredited aquariums, dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. www.vanaqua.org
Editor’s Note: Photos and b-roll are available upon request.
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