The Puerto Rican toad is the only native toad in Puerto Rico. It was declared endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1987 (USFWS, 1992) and is endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, 2004). One of the main factors leading to a reduction in the number of toads in Puerto Rico is habitat change. Many temporary breeding ponds in the north have been drained for agricultural and urban development, as well as mosquito control. In the Guanica National Forest, the practice of draining the last remaining breeding pond to facilitate access to the beach was discontinued after the rediscovery of toads in the area in 1984. Another suspected factor contributing to the reduction of the toad population is the introduction of the giant sea toad R. Marina. The toad is a much smaller species, and it has to compete with the sea toad for eggs, food and shelter. Predation of young toads by sea toads has also been observed. Other known predators include wild dogs, cats, mongooses, anoles, ground lizards, crabs, and herons (USFWS, 1992 and Canals, 2005). The last remaining population of Guanica is very vulnerable to environmental disasters. Hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, prolonged drought, increased salinity and sea level rise can destroy entire populations or reduce them to unacceptable numbers.
Estimates of numbers (accumulated over the past 30 years during nesting) range from 300 to 3000 individuals for the remaining wild toad population in Tamarindo, Guanica. There are no estimates of the populations of crested toads found in Sienega and Ventana, as well as in six reintroduction sites throughout the island. Enhanced monitoring and research are needed to assess all areas.
Historical Timeline of Events for the Puerto Rican crested toad:
The crested toad was first described in 1868 (Cope, 1868), has only been reported from 19 sites in Puerto Rico and was believed extinct by the mid 1960’s (Garcia-Diaz, 1967). The timeline below depicts major events regarding the rediscovery of the toad and significant recovery efforts that follow.
1967: crested toad rediscovered in Isabella- northern part of the island
1974: northern population found in Quebradillas (Estremera, 1990)
1980: partnerships developed and crested toads reproduce in captivity
1982: first reintroduction in north occurs- Quebradillas
1984: southern population discovered in Guánica Commonwealth Forest (Moreno, 1985); PRCT listed as endangered by PRDNER; AZA PRCT SSP formed
1987: federally listed as threatened by USFWS
1992: last of the northern toads observed in Quebradillas (Ross, 2007); reduced to single population in Guánica; first reintroduction in the south occurs- Manglillo Grande
2006: primary reintroduction site established in north- El Tallonal, Arecibo
2008: discovery of a second population of PRCT in south- Ventana; reintroductions begin in second southern site- Gabia, Coamo
2010: population of crested toads rediscovered in Cienaga, Yauco- south
2012: reintroductions occur at three new sites: Rio Encantado, Cailes and La Esperanza, Manati in north; Los Conventos, Guayanilla in south
One of the primary goals identified for the conservation of this species is to foster island-wide awareness for this rare endemic toad. Puerto Ricans are very fond of their beloved coquí (Eleutherodactylus coqui), and sounds and images of the frog can be heard and found everywhere. Unfortunately, most Puerto Ricans have never heard of the crested toad, nor are they aware of its plight. Historically, the original common name for P. lemur was “sapo concho,” but the name soon became synonymous for the more commonly seen R. marina, making conservation efforts difficult. As a result in 2003, the recovery working group changed the common name for P. lemur to “sapo concho Puertorriqueño” and the name for R. marina to “sapo común” to differentiate between the two species.