Any Texan worth their salt is proud to be from Texas. Our state is beautiful, bigger than most countries, and we rely on ourselves for a good portion of what we do. Yes, Texans are proud people, but Houstonians are even more so. We have excellent schools, an amazing port, a world-renowned medical center, and we’re the fourth largest city in the country. There is one thing that we’re missing, though. The endangered Houston Toad is no longer found in our city.
You used to be able to shrill the shrill cry of the Houston Toad all over the city at night. It’s been decades, though, since the endangered Houston Toad has called Houston its home. No one is sure just how many of the toads are left in the wild, but the are estimated to be between 150-300. This native Texas species is on the verge of extinction.
The Houston Zoo isn’t giving up without a fight, though. The Houston Zoo has been tirelessly working to preserve the amphibians. Since 2013, specialists have harvested around a million eggs. No other facility in the world is doing work on the same scale as our zoo.
“This animal is uniquely Texas,” says Stan Mays who joined us in the breeding facility. He’s the Zoo’s curator for amphibians.
“It was well adapted to the Houston area before there was urbanization. It’s a Texas native and you hate wiping out anything that’s a Texas native,” Mays says.
There hasn’t been a sighting of the endangered Houston Toad in Houston since the 1970’s. The last recorded sighting was in 1975 at the Hobby Airport. The amphibians moved west, and can still be found, on occasion, near Austin. The last five years have been difficult for the floundering toad, though.
Bastrop State Park, one of the few habitats left for the endangered Houston Toad, has suffered from drought, wildfires, and bulldozing.
“They bulldozed several hundred acres,” says biologist Mike Forstner, the leading Houston Toad expert at Texas State Univeristy. Before, the ‘choruses’ of the endangered Houston Toad could be clearly heard. Hopes had started to rise for the continuation of the species. After spring ’16, though, things are looking bleak.
“In the spring of 2016, extensive clearing, bulldozing, chain-sawing, and tree removal occurred within the chorusing habitat and in 2016 we did not detect those large choruses,” Forstner says.
If we don’t act quickly, a unique Texas native animal could be gone from the world forever. The Houston Zoo and several scientists are fighting to make sure we don’t lose another animal for good.