Within the heart of Ward Bayou in south Mississippi, there are two shallow ponds where one of the rarest frogs in the United States can be found. In 2001, Dr. Steve Reichling, Director of Conservation and Research, spearheaded the rescue of the critically endangered Dusky Gopher Frog from this area. The Memphis Zoo has partnered with other zoos, such as Dallas, Como, Detroit, and Omaha, along with universities and governmental agencies, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Mississippi State Fish and Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The zoo began releasing frogs into this area in 2017, and in the last five years we have released around 4,000 tadpoles and 4,000 frogs into Ward Bayou. There has been great progress in this program with the discovery of natural breeding by captive-bred frogs inside the bayou. The hope for this program is to create a strong, self-sustaining population where the frogs can grow and thrive in their native longleaf pine habitat without human intervention.
Why Dusky Gopher Frogs?
Dusky Gopher Frogs are an important species in the longleaf pine forest in south Mississippi. Within Ward Bayou, this critically endangered frog is found living near two shallow ponds. These ponds fill up during the rainy season and the frogs breed and lay their eggs in the water. The Dusky Gopher Frog earned its name from living in gopher tortoise burrows. These frogs are part of the food chain and vital to their environment.