Tanzanian toads hit the road to escape extinction

Corpus Christi Caller Times

December 06, 2000

TANZANIA, Africaà‚–The power plant is currently running below capacity as water is diverted to the inch-long spray toads, which live in a cloud of vapor beneath the Kihansi waterfall.

But since the introduction of power rationing last week, the Tanzania Electric Co. has come under mounting pressure to turn the turbine taps on full. Should that happen, the 10,000-12,000 toads will dry out and die.

Last week the World Bank paid for 500 of the toads to be flown to U.S. universities to see whether a new habitat could be artificially created.

To sustain spray toads in their natural state, the waterfall must have a constant flow of 280 cubic feet per second, cutting potential electricity generation by almost one-third. At present an artificial sprayer sprinkles the toads with 70 cubic feet of water per second.

But Tanzania is producing less than half the electricity it needs.

Environmentalists say the toad species – only discovered in 1996, two years after work began on the $274 million hydropower project – is unique in that the toads give birth to fully-formed tadpoles instead of spawning.

But Tanzanians care little that the toad might be wiped out.

“We are not worth the bloody toad?” asked one Dar es Salaam resident. “How do we benefit from its rarity?”

1999 Caller-Times Publishing Company, a Scripps Howard newspaper.All rights reserved.

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