I have to admit that in my everyday life I am not all that adventurous. Sometimes I get on a Tube train just as the doors are shutting, but that's about as hard core as I get. In Montserrat the forest trekking I had to do was pretty tame, yet in my head I felt like I was like Bear Grylls. Little did I know what the ZSL team had in store for me here in Dominica.
In filming the work ZSL are doing for the Mountain Chicken Frog Project here in Dominica I am following around Alex, ZSL's Conservation Volunteer over here and Machel, the Amphibian Technician for the Forestry department. They've been showing me the different tasks they undertake, from running the breeding facility to community outreach projects to scientific field surveys of the mountain chicken frog population.
It was great to see the work going on at the breeding facility and as the breeding season is upon us there is a lot of hope here that they may see their first mountain chickens born here this year, so fingers crossed! However, it was the scientific field surveys that I was particularly looking forward to as it was a chance to see some wild mountain chicken frogs in their natural habitat on the island. The work currently being conducted is the biggest field survey in around seven years, looking into the status of the chytrid fungus on the island amongst its amphibian species. I had imagined this might involve some nice strolls through a forest counting frogs. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It also made me realise what an amazing job the ZSL team are doing out here. Whilst I battled simply to stay on the slope, Machel was able to spot a frog, go after it and capture it in a matter of moments. The team then positioned themselves on this precarious terrain to swab the frog and take its measurements, the data from which will go towards a study being conducted back at ZSL's Institute of Zoology in London. The frog we found on that occasion turned out to be a brand new one that had never been caught before, so the teamed tagged it and released it to bound back up the hill. By the time we finished that night I was exhausted and bruised, but for the team it was just another normal night in the field.
It was fascinating to experience the different habitats that the mountain chicken frog is able to survive in and it gave me a new respect for the species. On one evening I was given the opportunity to hold one of the frogs they had caught before we released it again. Looking at the little guy in my hand I found myself really hoping that all the work going into studying and combating the chytrid fungus and its effects on these awesome frogs pays off, because it really would be awful to lose this Lara Croft of the frog world from the island forever.
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Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Follow the latest news on ZSL’s Arts & Culture projects at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, and ZSL’s conservation work through the lense of the Arts.
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One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
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