Zoo Works to Conserve Highly Endangered Frogs

Zoo Works to Conserve Highly Endangered Frogs

Dusky gopher frogs are extremely rare, and their established habitat has dwindled to about three small ponds in Mississippi. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers the species to be one of the 100 most endangered species in the world. The frogs, which received their ‘gopher’ moniker due to living much of their lives in underground burrows dug by other animals, used to inhabit areas of Alabama, Louisiana, and additional land in Mississippi, but habitat loss has decimated their numbers with only about 100 adults estimated to remain in the wild. The species is very particular when it comes to selecting breeding spots, only breeding in ephemeral ponds. This uncommon type of pond dries out for portions of the year which is not suitable for fish, and the lack of this predator is beneficial for tadpoles’ survival. When picked up, dusky gopher frogs cover their eyes with their forefeet – potentially a protection mechanism to shield their eyes until the offending animal tastes the frog’s bitter skin and releases it.

The Memphis Zoo has been leading a breeding program in an attempt to save the species. The zoo believes that releasing frogs bred in captivity is crucial in order to prevent the species from becoming extinct. The Memphis Zoo has an entire room dedicated to the breeding of dusky gopher frogs. The Memphis Zoo and some of its partner zoos have released over 4,000 dusky gopher frogs in southern Mississippi since the program was started a couple years ago, including over 3,000 frogs in 2020 alone. Through this program, dusky gopher frogs are being reintroduced into areas that they used to inhabit before vanishing. The frogs are tagged before being released. In 2019 while searching near some burrows of a release site, the zoo team located a dusky gopher frog that had been released the prior year. This find is an encouraging sign that the relatively new breeding program will help dusky gopher frogs to rebound.

Chick-fil-A, which in 2019 was ranked #1 in Market Force’s fast food check chain survey for the fifth year in a row, has been a supporting sponsor of the Memphis Zoo Lights since 2015, helping to make the event possible. The Memphis Zoo Lights is an annual holiday season attraction at the zoo. The zoo is covered with holiday lights and decorations, and the event helps the zoo boost revenue during the winter months. The zoo is continuing with this tradition in 2020, although with capacity restrictions due to COVID. Chick-fil-A has worked to become environmentally friendly in other ways, such as their packaging materials. They recently decreased the amount of plastic used in their warm food bowls, and they use PET plastic in their cold food plastic.

PET plastic, which is also known as PETE plastic, is the easiest type of plastic to recycle. Just because a plastic item has a recycling symbol does not mean a recycling center will recycle it. While each facility has its own standards, typically only resin codes 1 (i.e. PET plastic), 2, and 3 are recycled because these types of plastics do not cause issues when being processed by recycling machinery. The resin code, which is the number found within the three arrow recycling symbol, can typically be found on the bottom of a container. By supporting the Memphis Zoo and using PET plastics, Chick-fil-A has been taking steps to support conservation and the environment.


Why the Little Dusky Gopher Frog Matters – www.treehugger.com

SAVING THE DUSKY GOPHER FROG – www.biologicaldiversity.org

Memphis Zoo Insider: Dusky Gopher Frogs – www.youtube.com

Memphis Zoo Continues Work to Save Critically Endangered Frog – memphiszoo.org

America’s Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants Revealed In Latest Market Force Information Study – www.marketforce.com

Three things to know about the new bowls at Chick-fil-A – thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com

Recycling plastics – what the numbers mean + cheat sheet – www.greenlivingtips.com

Which Plastics Are Recyclable and Which Aren’t? – eponline.com

Dusky gopher frog photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wikimedia

One thought on “Zoo Works to Conserve Highly Endangered Frogs

  1. This effort sounds like real progress is possible. I also found the information on what types of plastic are most likely to be recycled very helpful. Keep this good information coming!

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