Out on the fingerlike peninsula of southwestern Haiti is the remote forest realm of the La Hotte bush frog—or what is left of it. “It's a very beautiful forest,” says Carlos Martinez Rivera, a conservation biologist at the Philadelphia Zoo. “It feels like going to any other tropical rain forest. But it's a very tiny patch of forest.” In recent decades Haiti has desperately cut down trees to grow crops or make charcoal. So, in 2010, the Philadelphia Zoo captured 154 frogs from nine species in those fading forests for breeding back in the U.S.
Now the zoo hosts more than 1,500 Haitian frogs, including more than 1,200 La Hotte bush frogs. “If you do have a doomsday scenario where the forest is gone, the species will still be preserved,” Martinez Rivera says.
Biology and behavior have helped the frog thrive in captivity. The females lay large clutches of eggs, which the males then guard until they hatch, freeing up the females to mate again and lay more eggs. “They're very prolific in that sense,” Martinez Rivera says.
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