Phoenix Zoo Chiricahua Leopard Frog Conservation Efforts

As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and in cooperation with Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Phoenix Zoo has been involved in local, regional and international efforts to save and protect numerous wildlife species, including the amphibian population. Because of high mortality rates in the wild of Chiricahua leopard frog eggs, and small tadpoles, captive head-starting provides a greater chance of survival for late-stage tadpoles or small frogs. In the wild, approximately five percent or less of the eggs in a mass survives to metamorphosis. In captivity, more than 90 percent of an egg mass survives to be released as froglets or late-stage tadpoles. By releasing a large number of animals back into a site, chances are greatly increased that more will survive to adulthood and reproduce, as well as preserving valuable genes.

The Tadpole Taskforce

The Zoo’s primary contribution to southwestern amphibian conservation has been the head-starting of egg masses and developing and improving captive husbandry techniques. In addition to these contributions, Zoo staff has also participated in population surveys, habitat renovation and restoration, and given presentations to educate the public about the plight of amphibians both locally and globally.

Along with our knowledgeable and dedicated keeper staff, the Zoo also has a Tadpole Task Force (TFF), a group of volunteers that we train to help raise the hundreds of tadpoles each year as part of its conservation efforts. The TTF is a group of volunteers used heavily in the early 1990s to help with the daily care of the tadpoles. Their help was invaluable and gave interested people a way to become directly involved with conservation. Not only does the TTF get to work with tadpoles and frogs at the Zoo, but the volunteers also go on field trips to release frogs back into the wild! To get involved with the TTF, please contact our Volunteer office at 602.273.1341 x7202.

The Phoenix Zoo Head-Start Program

The Zoo’s head-start program, dedicated to raising native frogs for release to supplement wild populations, is housed in The Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Foundation Conservation Center. At the Johnson Center, you have the ability to see the leopard frog colonies and our staff as they work with them.

Our “head-start planning cycle” begins prior to the start of the field season. At that time, priorities for the specific populations to be reared are made. Once the breeding season begins, volunteers and state and federal biologists monitor donor sites for breeding and spawning activity. Once an egg mass is found, the Zoo is notified and we prepare for its arrival. Whole or partial egg masses are transported to the Zoo where they are set up in a tank to hatch. The tadpoles are then raised by Zoo staff until they become large tadpoles or small metamorphs, at which time they are released back into the wild. Between 1995 and 2007 the Zoo has head-started more than 7,000 tadpoles and frogs!

Ways You Can Help the Chiricahua Leopard Frog

  • Volunteer for the Arizona Trail and the Tadpole Taskforce. For more information, call the Zoo’s Volunteer Hotline at 602.273.1341 x7202.
  • Help preserve wetland habitat for amphibians by reducing your water usage. Turning off the water while you brush your teeth saves thousands of gallons yearly. Think of other ways to conserve!
  • Participate in habitat improvement projects as a volunteer with the AGFD. Click Here
  • Learn about what it takes for amphibians to survive in their habitat.