San Diego Zoo helps endangered frog get a second chance - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Zoo helps endangered frog get a second chance

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - An endangered frog species is getting a second chance at survival. Local researchers are playing a role in releasing the tadpoles that will hopefully help the frogs thrive in the wild.

Thanks to the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, the frog's shot at long-term survivability has taken a giant leap forward.

"They're critically endangered, fewer than 150 of them left in the wild. Without our help, I think these frogs would disappear in the next 10 years," research coordinator Jeff Lemm said.

On Tuesday, a team of researchers released three dozen tadpoles into a stream in the San Jacinto Mountains, placing the young frogs in special pens designed to protect them from predators.

The tadpoles were bred and raised at the institute using adult frogs collected as tadpoles back in 2006.

"They were actually in a stream that was drying up," Lemm said.

To encourage them to reproduce in the lab, cooler conditions are critical.

"To spur them to breed we have to chill them down. We basically have to give them a hibernation," Lemm said.

The hope is these newly released tadpoles will thrive in their new environment and reproduce over the coming years.

"It is a critical time for these frogs, and we're going to do everything we can to bring them back," Lemm said.

Drought, disease and development, along with pesticides and predators lead to the yellow-legged frog's near-demise in the first place.

"The reason these guys are going extinct is because of humans, so it should be up to us to help them out and get them back on their feet. I can't wait to see these guys hopping all over the country at some point," Lemm said.

Researchers will continue to monitor the tadpoles as they adjust to their new home near Idyllwild. It could take years, or even decades to determine if the program is successful, with the ultimate goal of restoring thousands of tadpoles to their native habitat.

Ten of the adult mountain yellow-legged frogs collected by the San Diego Zoo have recently been sent to the Los Angeles Zoo so it can develop its own breeding program.

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