Endangered gopher frogs get help from South Carolina wildlife scientists, Riverbanks Zoo

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Photo: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Wildlife scientists and the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia are teaming up to save endangered gopher frogs in South Carolina.

The survival rate of the eggs and tadpoles for the frogs is extremely low, so the Department of Natural Resources finds the eggs in Lowcountry wetlands and the zoo raises them in captivity.

“It’s a matter of how we can best use our strengths for species conservation,” Natural Resources herpetologist Andrew Grosse said in a statement.

Wildlife scientists are also working to restore habitat for gopher frogs, so the eggs and tadpoles have a better chance at survival when they are returned to the wild, Grosse said.

The frogs live in longleaf pines and are a good indicator at the health of that environmental system.

“They have a very complex life history and highly specialized habitat requirements,” Grosse said. “All of the pieces must be in place and functioning at a high level to support these fragile populations.”

Several hundred frogs have been saved through the South Carolina program and similar efforts in North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, officials said.

The project is attempting to keep the frogs off the federal endangered species list. Scientists are calling it “Head Start” since it gives the frogs a head start at surviving.

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