Maybe the story will have a happy ending, and the bright-golden spray toads, each so small it could sit easily on a dime, will return to the African gorge where they once lived, in the spray of a waterfall on the Kihansi River in Tanzania.
The river is dammed now, courtesy of the bank. The waterfall is 10 percent of what it was. And the toads are now extinct in the wild.
But 4,000 of them live in the Bronx and Toledo, Ohio, where scientists at the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Toledo Zoo are keeping them alive in hopes, somehow, of returning them to the wild. This month, the Bronx Zoo will formally open a small exhibit displaying the toads in its Reptile House.
Meanwhile, though, the toads embody the larger conflicts between conservation and economic development and the complexity of trying to preserve and restore endangered species to the wild. Their story also raises questions about how much effort should go to save any one species.
These issues are particularly pressing for frogs, toads and other amphibians, whose populations are plunging worldwide in the face of factors like habitat loss, climate change and disease. Jennifer B. Pramuk, the curator of herpetology at the Bronx Zoo. said at least 120 species vanished in recent years.
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