AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – The Akron Zoo is reintroducing an extinct species into the wild, helping restore the French Polynesian Islands’ ecosystem.

Partula snails were declared extinct in the wild in the 1990s and are listed as extinct in the wild by the IUCN Red List, according to a press release from the Akron Zoo.

That is why two Akron Zoo staff members, Animal Care Manager Kathleen Balogh and Zookeeper Elizabeth Maille, traveled to Tahiti to release 1,100 snails bred at the Akron Zoo in September.

“This experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Balogh said. “Being able to work with several institutions across the world in a huge effort was amazing. In a few years, we’re hoping that Partula snails can be reclassified as no longer extinct in the wild.”

According to the zoo, Partula snails maintain forest health by feeding on decaying plants in the French Polynesian Islands. 

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and other organizations across the world have stepped in the help bring Partula snails to zoos to be bred and to save the species. The Akron Zoo joined the effort in the year 2000, according to the release.

According to the release, 25,000 snails have been released into the wild in the last nine years.

“I am so proud of the work done by our Akron Zoo snail team,” said Doug Piekarz, president and CEO at the Akron Zoo. “Their hard work and dedication to these snails is apparent through the thriving of the species here at the zoo. Partula snails might be small, but bringing them back from extinction is making a huge impact on our natural world! Always remember that at the Akron Zoo, big and small – we care for them all!”