The Captive Breeding Centre for Threatened Amphibians of Guadarrama Mountains was established by our research team and the Ministry of Environment of the Community of Madrid in response to the outbreak of chytridiomycosis in 1997 that decimated amphibian populations in Peñalara Massif. The captive breeding of endangered species is a costly undertaking that is only advisable for stocks or species in serious danger or where the threat factor(s) cannot be controlled in the natural environment in the short term.
Before the possibility that the Common Midwife Toad disappeared completely from Peñalara Massif, and the impossibility of eliminating the pathogenic fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, we launched the Breeding Centre in order to:
(1) maintain a captive population of Common Midwife Toads (Alytes obstetricans) in Peñalara;
(2) have a source of specimens of the Common Midwife Toad for subsequent reintroductions into the wild and;
(3) provide specimens in order to develop methods for mitigation of disease.
During the design of the Breeding Centre we incorporated the advice of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which developed a captive breeding program for the Mallorcan Midwife Toad (Alytes muletensis) at Jersey Zoo (Durrell Wildlife Park).
The larvae are grown at the Breeding Centre in a room which contains forty 80-litre tanks, where they are kept until metamorphosis. In this room the temperature is kept low throughout the year (less than 18°C) to prolong larval development as much as possible, and thus generate large metamorphic individuals that are easier to feed. By contrast, the adults are maintained at an elevated temperature (21°C) that accelerates the growth of the animals and prevents the development of chytridiomycosis. Here the specimens are maintained in containers of about 20 individuals, until they reach a certain size, at which point they are transferred to individual containers. Both rooms feature UV lamps that allows the binding of calcium. Another room maintained at 30°C, houses a colony of crickets which are a live food source, crucial for the amphibians of the centre. On the grounds of the centre there is an area where reproductive adults spend time in the spring and summer.