Breeding Mountain Chickens in Dominica

Mountain chicken frog

The large 'Mountain chicken' frog holds a special cultural importance in Dominica, and is one of the most cherished amphibians in this region. Sadly, the population has declined by 80% in the last ten years and this species is now Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List as a result of hunting and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. ZSL and partners are working on both in-situ and ex-situ captive breeding of the mountain chicken, in the hope that it can be re-introduced in the future.

Dominica's unique amphibians

Officially named the ‘Giant Ditch Frog’ and locally known as the ‘Mountain chicken’ (for its large size and the fact that is eaten for food), the mountain chicken was the traditional national dish of Dominica before the chytrid fungus reached the Caribbean. Its name, unsurprisingly, comes from the fact that the frog’s meat tastes like chicken. The frog is only found on the islands of Dominica and Montserrat, and lives mainly in the lowlands rather than the mountains. Its importance to the Dominican culture is reflected by its inclusion in the national Coat of Arms.

Why we are there

The population of the mountain chicken has declined by 80% over the past decade, causing this species to be classed as Critically Endangered according to the IUCN Red List. The main reasons for this decline have been human consumption of the frogs and the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. Without rapid and concerted conservation measures, this animal and other Dominican amphibians will continue to decline at this alarming rate.

Mountain Chicken breeding

The group of mountain chicken frogs at ZSL London Zoo are one of only two groups from Dominica that have been taken into captivity. The other population of 12 frogs is currently held by a private collector in the United States. Until now we had never managed to breed mountain chickens successfully, but this year we had breeding success. Housed in a bio-secure breeding unit at the Zoo, a female laid eggs in her foam nest and guarded them as they developed into tadpoles. This success gives hope that the mountain chicken will be able to be sustained in captivity, a breeding captive population maintained until their habitat can be made suitable again.

Capacity building in the Carribean

This project’s aim is to build capacity within the Caribbean region to protect against the impacts of chytrid fungus in Dominican amphibians.

 

Project information

Key species

  • Mountain chicken, Leptodactylus fallax
  • Critically Endangered,
  • Dominica and Monserrat

People involved

  • Ben Tapley works with the mountain chicken at ZSL London Zoo and in Dominica

Parners and sponsors

  • This project is kindly funded by The Darwin Initiative