The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium has successfully bred its Laos Warty Newts (Paramesotriton laoensis) for a third time in the institution’s history. This brightly colored amphibian became an almost instant target for collection by commercial traders for the pet trade after initially being described in a 2002 scientific journal. Illegal harvesting and habitat modifications have led the species to experience at least a 50 percent decline in population numbers over the last 10 years, as well as an endangered species classification.
In late 2011 and throughout 2012, the Museum & Aquarium became the first public zoo or aquarium to breed the species in captivity. Since then, the Museum & Aquarium’s population has grown to 10 adults.
Several clutches, containing over 100 eggs in total, have been laid since January 2018. Amphibians often lay large clutches of eggs as survival rates account for a very small percent of the total clutch.
“We have learned quite a bit about the Laotian Newt and we continue to learn more about their care every day,” said Abby Urban, Lead Keeper at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. “I suspect that our success in breeding this species will increase as we have starting points for their reproduction and rearing now.”
To date, close to a dozen eggs have hatched, with additional hatches expected daily. Newts that survive to adulthood from this clutch will likely be offered to other AZA-accredited facilities that are working with endangered amphibians. Those animals could be used for captive breeding programs or for display and education purposes to share and educate people about the plight of endangered species, habitat loss, the need for additional environmental laws, trafficking, and poaching.
Urban said, “Offspring from our newts could be viewed as an assurance colony, protecting the genetic diversity of a species when it cannot survive in the wild.”
The Museum & Aquarium staff is hoping to display a few of the adult newts in the Conservation Lab this spring, but for now, the growing metamorphs will be cared for in a secure, behind-the-scenes space. For more information on the conservation efforts conducted at the Museum & Aquarium, or to donate to support the organization’s work, visit rivermuseum.com.