December 31, 2020
The Past Informs the Future
- as seen by -Don Boyer
In the 1971 Annual Report of the New York Zoological Society (now the Wildlife Conservation Society), Curator of Herpetology Wayne King, Assistant Curators John Behler and Robert Brown, and Assistant Animal Manager Peter Brazaitis contributed a short summary of the compositions and highlights of WCS’s Bronx Zoo Herpetology Department. At that time, the collection had 40 species of amphibian and 152 species of reptile. There were five orders and 38 families represented with 192 species and subspecies and 600 specimens. Today, across the five WCS wildlife parks based in New York City, we have five orders and 52 families represented, with 223 species and a staggering 5,136 specimens. The current large number of specimens is, in part, due to specific species conservation programs such as those for the Kihansi spray toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) and hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) that account for 3,654 of the total.
Thanks to the work of many before us (above from 1971, Wayne King identifying confiscated crocodilians), there is still a strong conservation focus at WCS for a variety of threatened and endangered reptile and amphibian species both in our zoos and aquarium and through our field programs.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wildlife Conservation Society is celebrating 125 years of saving wildlife and wild places in 2020. WCS was founded as the New York Zoological Society in 1895, and the flagship Bronx Zoo opened in 1899. Wild View will feature regular posts on the history of the Society’s photography and other events throughout the year.