LA Zoo Releases Endangered Frogs Bred at Its Facility into the Wild

Photo: JAMIE PHAM - LA Zoo

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Approximately 170 endangered southern mountain yellow-legged frogs were reintroduced into their native habitat in the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles Zoo officials said Thursday.

Animal care staff from the Los Angeles Zoo joined conservationists from the U.S. Geological Survey at an undisclosed site to conduct the release.

A majority of the tadpoles were hatched at the L.A. Zoo and cared for by the Aquarium of the Pacific and Santa Ana Zoo. Approximately 90 frogs were raised by the aquarium and approximately 50 were raised by the Orange County- based zoo, which were released in August.

The remaining frogs released this week came from a group rescued from the 2020 Bobcat Fire and cared for by the Aquarium of the Pacific, according to a statement from the L.A. Zoo.

"This release is momentous for the L.A. Zoo as it marks another key milestone for our southern mountain yellow-legged frog breeding program," Ian Recchio, curator of reptiles and amphibians for the L.A. Zoo said in a statement.

"We are proud to be part of this long-running recovery effort with the USGS and partners. We hope Angelenos will see this effort in their own backyard and think about actions they can take to help conserve wildlife," he said.

The recovery program was established to bolster populations in the wild in hopes of saving this frog species from extinction. Frogs bred at the L.A. Zoo are hatched and raised with the help of zoo and aquarium partners to ensure their development beyond their vulnerable state.

Once the frogs mature enough, they are released into natural habitats, giving them a better chance of avoiding predators and other threats.

Since 2007, when the breeding colony was established at the zoo, nearly 6,000 zoo-bred offspring have been released into the San Gabriel Mountains and surrounding habitats.

The Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Recovery Program is a collaborative effort between USGS, the L.A. Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staff at the L.A. Zoo designed and built a bio-secure amphibian breeding room, specialized for breeding efforts. The room is equipped with life support and water quality technology to provide the "most optimal conditions" for this sensitive species of frog.

After this latest release of frogs, the Aquarium of the Pacific is continuing to care for more tadpoles behind the scenes to raise them from that vulnerable stage up to froglets for future release.

"Releases of endangered species are exciting moments, but what makes this release extra special is that these frogs are from a genetically underrepresented population, which can help to further increase the chances of this species' survival," Brett Long, director of mammals and birds for the Aquarium of the Pacific, said in a statement.

The Santa Ana Zoo currently cares for 41 juvenile frogs. Last year, 188 of these amphibians raised at the aquarium and 25 from the Santa Ana Zoo were released to the wild.

Amber Suto, education specialist at the Santa Ana Zoo, said it's been an honor working in the recovery program.

"They used to be one of the most common amphibians in our mountains, and we hope to see them thriving in their natural habitat again one day. Our goal is to establish at least 20 stable populations in the wild with at least 50 frogs each to ensure this species continues on for the next 100 years," Suto said in a statement.

The southern mountain yellow-legged frog are classified as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This species lives in perennial streams in select areas of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains.

The public can view the southern mountain yellow-legged frog at the L.A. Zoo's seasonal habitat inside its Living Amphibian, Invertebrate, and Reptile exhibit. The habitat is open to the public during regular zoo hours between May and November, after which the frogs move to the zoo's amphibian breeding facility for the breeding season.

Photo: LA Zoo

Photo: LA Zoo

Photo: LA Zoo

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