Rare frogs start breeding
Wednesday 12 August 2009
Critically endangered frogs that were saved from certain extinction by an emergency rescue team that included ZSL scientists have laid four batches of tadpoles.
Following the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease called chytridiomycosis, fifty mountain chicken frogs were air-lifted off the Caribbean island of Montserrat to ensure the long term survival of the species.
Twelve frogs came to ZSL London Zoo, 12 went to Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust‘s headquarters in Jersey and 26 to Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna, Sweden.
Dr Ian Stephen, ZSL’s Assistant Curator of Herpetology, appeared BBC Breakfast this morning to talk about the frogs’ amazing breeding cycle.
The four batches, born at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Parken Zoo, could result in over 100 frogs available within the first generation born from the rescued population.
The mountain chicken frog, Leptodactylus fallax, is one of the largest frogs in the world, but it has also become one of the most threatened.
Thought to have once occurred on seven Caribbean islands, it is now restricted to Montserrat and Dominica. However, the arrival of chytrid fungus all but wiped out the population on Dominica and since February this year has caused major declines in Montserrat pushing this species to the brink of extinction.
As soon as dead frogs were discovered by the Montserrat Department of Environment, a team of herpetological and veterinary experts rushed to the island to survey the extent of the disease and train local forestry staff in bio-security techniques to limit the spread of the disease.
A cause for hope came with the discovery of an apparently healthy population that had remained isolated in one of the most important sites for the frog, a location in a mountainous area, called Fairy Walk.
All frogs are kept in strict bio-secure conditions to minimise any risk of disease transmission either to or from these animals.
The goal of the captive breeding programme is to build up a large number of frogs that can be introduced back into Montserrat to chytrid free areas of the island within the next two years. The birth of these four batches is an important step towards this goal.
All images are copyright of Gerardo Garcia / Durrell
Amphibian Conservation in the Caribbean
ZSL is working with other organisations to address the threat to mountain chicken frogs.