8 May 2018

Tanzania: Scientists Reintroduce 10,000 Kihansi Toads

SCIENTISTS have successfully reintroduced 9,873 Kihansi Spray Toads (KST) to their natural milieu at Kihansi Falls in the Kihansi Gorge located at Udzungwa Mountains in Morogoro Region.

The reintroduction of the toads started slowly in 2012 after scientists were able to successfully co-inhabit them with the chytrid fungus which led to the massive deaths of the rare species in the early 2000s.

The toads which are only found in Tanzania emanated from the 500 which were taken to USA where they were bred in captivity at both Bronx Zoo and Toledo Zoo to save them from extinction in their area.

"Today, we are returning the toads to their natural environment, these are the mixture from the University of Dar es Salaam Lab and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) Lab located here at Kihansi.

Since the reintroduction started in 2012, we have reintroduced over 9,873 toads," an Ecologist/ Laboratory Scientist at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Dr Charles Msuya said.

He added that the KST has a long history and the reintroduction work as well as the research of their lives and enemies is not easy,adding that all the stakeholders should dedicate their time in ensuring that the toads stay safe.

"We discovered these toads in early 1990s and they are unique and unlike other toads' reproduction which depends on laying eggs, KST fertilisation is internal and eggs and developing tadpoles are retained in the female's body until the young are born as small toadlets.

The toads started dying following the construction of Lower Kihansi dam," he said. Dr Msuya pointed further that as the KST were flew to US, the environmentalists discussed with the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited who agreed to release some water from the dam to help restore the conditions at the Kihansi Gorge.

"The first batch of the toads was returned to the country in 2011 and when we tried to reinteroduce them to the natural milieu, the results were not so good. We discovered that the situation was not yet good for the toads.

We thus improved the infrastructure to make the environment more favourable," he said. An assistant lecturer at the UDSM, Mr Nassoro Mohammed, who took the toads to Kihansi from the university labs said, "The toads have arrived safely, but three out of 1,000 have died on the way, we are concerned and we need to find out why this happened".

An environment officer from the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), Mr Henric Mwalongo, said the reintroduction activity was successful and encouraging. "We are committed to make sure that the toads are safe and are surviving.

Talks are underway with villages in Iringa and Morogoro regions bordering Kihansi to refrain from encroaching water sources," he said. NEMC, TAWIRI, UDSM and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) have been in the forefront in the KST reintroduction drive.

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