Conserving Endangered Caribbean Reptiles and Amphibians
Under the leadership of Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Dustin Smith, the Zoo works on numerous projects in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rican crested toads, Virgin Island boas, and Conception Island silver boas. Although the geographic scope is broad, spanning from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico and throughout the Virgin Islands, the goal for all these species is the same: recover declining populations.
Giving Puerto Rican Crested Toads a Headstart
Since 2015, the Zoo has bred and released Puerto Rican crested toads annually to help bolster populations in the wild. The goal is to develop more self-sustaining populations, but this is difficult, as there are only two natural breeding ponds in existence. Because of this, we are working with Puerto Rican collaborators and AZA partners to design more wetlands and breeding sites for ongoing recovery. In 2017, we also assisted with the design and construction of two ponds, which have already been used multiple times by this Critically Endangered toad.
Securing a Better Future for the Virgin Island Tree Boa
The Zoo also expanded its role in the Caribbean in 2017 by reinvigorating recovery efforts of the Virgin Island boa. We began conducting surveys to determine population sizes and better understand the overall status of the snakes. Zoo veterinary staff also conducted health assessments of the boas encountered. It was determined that we should begin breeding snakes at the Zoo for additional introductions to expand the wild population size. We also maintain an “assurance population” to make sure the species survives if something happens to the remaining wild population.
Protecting Silver Boas - the World’s Rarest Boa
The Zoo is undertaking a similar effort in the Bahamas with the Silver boa. Although only recently described to science in 2015, it’s already considered the world’s rarest boa species, with fewer than 140 in existence. The Zoo is partnering with UNC Asheville and the Bahamas National Trust to conduct surveys for the species to learn more about its population and natural history. In addition, we are developing an assurance population to ensure its long-term survival and to better understand its reproductive biology.
Partners: Citizens of the Karst, Para la Naturaleza, Puerto Rican Crested Toad SSP (with many other partner zoos and institutions), Puerto Rican Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, US Fish and Wildlife Service, UNC Asheville, Bahamas National Trust