DENVER, Colo. — The first batch of Lake Titicaca frog tadpoles in North American history hatched at the Denver Zoo on Valentine’s Day, officials announced Monday.
Around 200 tadpoles hatched February 14. They’re the offspring of two of the 20 frogs that arrived from the Huachipa Zoo in Lima, Peru in November 2015.
Right now Denver Zoo is the only institution in the northern hemisphere to house this critically endangered species, according to zoo officials. The tadpoles are “doing great” and most can be seen by the public at the zoo’s Tropical Discovery building.
Zoo officials say it’s been more than 20 years since a Lake Titicaca frog has resided in the United States.
“In the time we’ve had the Lake Titicaca frogs, we have gained so much insight to this unique species,” said Assistant Curator of Reptiles and Fish Tom Weaver. “We feel very proud that we are able to provide that opportunity.”
Since the arrival of the Lake Titicaca frogs at Denver Zoo in 2015, staff members have studied their behavior and looked to increase their population, with a goal to raise awareness of the plight of these amphibians while gaining insight into the care of the species.
The Lake Titicaca frog is the world’s largest entirely aquatic frog and lives only in Lake Titicaca and the surrounding rivers and streams. The frogs can grow up to 20 inches long and weight more than two pounds. The species’ seemingly excessive skin absorbs oxygen, allowing it to remain submerged indefinitely while still breathing and able to respire.
Since 2007, Denver Zoo has worked with partners in Bolivia and Peru to conserve the species and is currently the only zoo in the United States to support research in Peru. Additionally, Denver Zoo has staff based in Peru working with other zoos and the local government to further conservation efforts for the species.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the population of the Lake Titicaca frog has declined 80 percent over the last three generations and is now classified as “critically endangered.”
Marina Belisle, public relations coordinator for Denver Zoo, said even when guests do “seemingly small acts” like ride the Conservation Carousel, all proceeds go directly back into those efforts.
If you’d like more information on how to help Denver Zoo with conservation efforts, click here.