Wednesday, August 18th 2010, 4:00 AM
Maher, WCS/APThe Kihansi spray toad has vanished from it's native habitat in Tanzania.
An official from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo flew to Tanzania last week with some seriously exotic carry-on luggage: 100 rare, tiny toads.
The Kihansi spray toad has vanished from its native habitat, and scientists hope to create a new colony by importing some from U.S. zoos.
"It's an amazing feeling," said Jim Breheny, director of the Bronx Zoo.
Last Tuesday, their handler, Alyssa Borek, packed 50 toads from the Bronx Zoo and 50 from the Toledo Zoo into plastic deli containers after swaddling them in paper towels soaked in purified water.
They were loaded into two cardboard boxes that Borek hauled onto a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines jet for the trip from Kennedy Airport to Africa.
She delivered them to a state-of-the-art propagation center. The goal is to eventually move them to the Kihansi Gorge, where the Tanzanian government has installed sprinklers in an attempt to recreate the toads' habitat.
The toads were discovered in 1998, living on less than five acres of a spray zone created by waterfalls in the gorge.
The 2000 opening of a hydroelectric dam, which provides a third of Tanzania's electricity, reduced the flow of the waterfalls, eliminating 90% of the mist.
The toads began to dry out and fall ill. Before they were declared extinct in the wild, scientists collected a colony of them and split them among a handful of zoos.
The Bronx Zoo pumps 1,500 gallons of mist a day to the toads, who are on display in the Reptile House. Food, water and air is carefully purified.
Breheny called it an "incredible commitment" that he and Toledo Zoo officials hope will pay off halfway across the world. "We both have worked very hard for a successful end to the story," he said.