In winter 2013, following a plan to build a mall on the site of the winter pond at the checkpost junction in Haifa, and in collaboration with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), zookeepers from our Zoological Garden together with volunteer students from the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University, set out on a rescue mission to save the amphibians living in the winter pond before it was to be dried out.

As part of the rescue operation, tadpoles of the eastern spadefoot toad, from the last sub-population of the Zebulon valley, were collected, as well as tadpoles of southern banded newts, green toads and Middle-East tree frogs. 

All the tadpoles were brought to the Zoological Garden and housed in temporary water bodies, in order to establish breeding colonies and serve as a source for re-introduction back into nature. 

The Zoological Garden had held several species of amphibians even before this rescue operation, but the arrival of the new amphibians triggered the building of an area specifically designated for the documentation and research of the different amphibian species, in order to study their biology and ecology and promote their conservation in their natural habitats. 

At the beginning, the area comprised a small shed, where the spadefoot toads and newts were kept in plastic tanks collected from various sources. The shed was built on a small concrete platform on a slope that did not allow us to expand the soon-to-become inadequate research area, and the working conditions were difficult. Due to the importance of amphibian conservation and the increasing public attention, we wanted to enlarge the area in order to keep additional species and carry out further research. 

Currently, thanks to a generous donation that we received from the late Mr Horst Rulf Jorgan Helinger, we are rebuilding the area, upgrading its facilities and establishing the Center for Amphibian Research and Conservation. With the aid of the donation, we have built a terrace with a concrete surface, allowing us to triple the area designated for research systems, in addition to purchasing 20 plastic 1m3 tanks and equipping them with pumps, heating elements and more. This infrastructure will enable us to construct new systems for amphibian research and to continue breeding the spadefoot toads and newts in order to release them back into nature. 

Renovating the amphibian research area, photos: Noga Kronfled-Schor and Ron Elazari-Volcani

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