Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

14 August 2012

Tanzania: Kihansi Toads Pass Anti-Fungal 'Test'

SCIENTISTS have been able to successfully co-inhabit the Kihansi Spray Toads (KST) and chytrid fungus which led to the massive deaths of the species in the early years of 2000.

An Ecologist/Laboratory Scientist at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Charles Msuya, told the 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam that already 48 toads have been taken back to Kihansi Gorge.

"We thank God we finally made it, after years of studies we have been able to co-exist the KST with its deadly enemy, the chytrid fungus and at the moment we have 48 toads at the gorge which are about to complete two months since they were reintroduced there," he said.

Dr Msuya, who has been in charge of the UDSM captive facility for KST and the leading researcher in the matter in question, noted that the 48 toads are being closely monitored by two scientists. He added that the toads are playing and breeding as usual and that if the situation continues to normalize, a total release may be carried out in October, this year.

"We have about 1,800 toads in our captive facilities located in UDSM and Kihansi and we expect that if all goes well, we will reintroduce these toads to their natural milieu in October, this year," he said. After failing efforts by scientists of trying to get rid of the chytrid fungus from Kihansi, a study was launched in June, this year, to look for possibilities of co-habiting the two.

The Lower Kihansi Environmental Management Project Co-ordinator, Dr Fadhila Hatibu, told this paper in May, this year, that a team of scientists from the US were due to join their local counterparts in June for the task which has now become a success.

She noted that earlier studies had shown that it could not be possible to make Kihansi free from chytrid fungus.

"We now have a reliable spray system in place and turned the Kihansi Gorge into its former status that is favourable to toads. We have also conserved the environment around the gorge and we are satisfied that it is now a good habitat for toads," she said.

During the construction of Lower Kihansi Dam, the population of these rare species declined due to the reduction of the amount of wetland habitat receiving natural spray. The KST population was attacked by a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis that threatened to wipe out the rare species from the face of the earth.

About 500 of the toads, scientifically known as Nectophrynoides Asperginis, were in the year 2000 taken to the United States, because they were in danger of extinction. At Bronx and Toledo Zoos in Ohio in the US the toads are said to have multiplied to over 6,000. The scientists have noted that the successful study will see many more toads being flown back home from US.

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