In 1994, the World Bank funded a $275 million project to construct the Lower Kihansi Hydropower Project in Tanzania, which would support the expanding electricity needs of local communities and mining industries. Within four years, over 90 percent of the water in the river gorge had been diverted by the dam, forcing a tiny toad to die by the tens of thousands from habitat destruction and then disease.
In response to the crisis, two American biologists traveled to Tanzania in November 2001 on a rescue mission. They collected 500 Kihansi Spray toads from the waterfall where they lived and transported them to New York's Bronx Zoo and Ohio's Toledo Zoo. Since then, the toads have been kept in hermetically sealed terrariums, modern day “arks,” designed to protect them from total extinction. This fall, an effort is underway to reintroduce the frogs to Tanzania and, hopefully, the wild.
Around the world, amphibians are disappearing at faster rates than any other species. The story of the Kihansi spray toad vividly illustrates this tragedy as well as the greater catastrophe facing animal species, which are increasingly dependent on man made "arks" for survival.
By supporting this project, you'll help me buy a plane ticket to Tanzania and transportation once I get there so I can report on the fate of the Kihansi spray toad through video, radio, and print. I'll be interviewing biologists, environmental ethicists, government officials, and local Tanzanians in order to highlight the complex but critical issues surrounding species extinction, "arks," and conservation efforts that affect us all.
Newspapers and magazines in the United States are currently facing their own extinction crisis and are often unable to support time consuming and in-depth reporting. Be a part of a new model for funding good journalism made possible through Kickstarter! Anyone who decides to donate will gain access to a regularly updated online travelog where you'll be able to track the progress of the story, see the original habitat of the frogs, and meet the people who have a stake in their future. For those who would like to give more, a bounty of benefits await you...
Facts about the Kihansi spray toad:
~Adults measure just three quarters of an inch long.
~Until its extinction in the wild, the toad inhabited one of the smallest geographic ranges in the world, a mere five acres.
~Kihansi spray toads skip the tadpole stage and give birth to purple babies the size of a pen-tip.
~At one point the entire population of Kihansi spray toads in existence dropped to 60.
~Over half of the world’s 6,000 plus amphibian species are at risk of endangerment, according to the World Conservation Union.
~If you're interested in donating to amphibian conservation efforts, check out the Amphibian Ark campaign at http://www.amphibianark.org/.
- (35 days)