connect: Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram Follow us on YouTube SeeTucson Read about us on Trip Advisor

(Original Article)

Native frogs reintroduced to their onetime habitat

From Tucson.com
Published: 11/27/2014 by Douglas Kreutz

More than 500 Tarahumara frogs have been reintroduced into the Pajarito Mountains near the Mexican border west of Nogales after an absence of more than three decades.

"The frogs are back and it's great," said Mike Sredl, a biologist and frogs project coordinator with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Sredl said Tarahumara frogs disappeared in the 1980s from the Pajaritos and two other Southern Arizona mountain ranges where they had lived in canyons with natural pools. The die-off was possibly a result of pollution from smelters or a fungal skin disease.

About 550 frogs — raised in a breeding program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum — were released in the Sycamore Canyon area of the Pajaritos last month, Sredl said. The frogs will be monitored by biologists over the next several years to observe how they adapt in the wild.

"Symbolically, it is great to have another member of the true frog family back among the fauna of Arizona," Sredl said. "Frogs are important to the ecosystem. They eat a lot of insects. They are a measure of how well we are taking care of the planet."

FROGS' HISTORIC RANGE

Tarahumara frogs were found in parts of the Tumacacori Mountains and Santa Rita Mountains as well as the Pajaritos before they disappeared in the 1980s, Sredl said, noting that populations of the frogs survived in Mexico.

The highly aquatic frogs, named for the Tarahumara Indian lands in Mexico, had thrived around permanent pools, which are necessary for both their larval and adult stages.

"Efforts to reintroduce Tarahumara frogs began in 1994, but it wasn't until 2004 when we did the first releases" in the Santa Rita Mountains, where a few of the frogs have survived, Sredl said.

DESERT MUSEUM'S ROLE

"The Desert Museum has been involved from the get-go with the Tarahumara frog conservation team," which also includes the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Arizona and a consultant biologist, Sredl said.

The museum's General Curator Stephane Poulin said, "Seeing these animals returned to the wild is rewarding and makes our investment of countless hours breeding and caring for these animals over 20 years all worthwhile."