The mountain chicken frog, endemic to the islands of Montserrat and Dominica, became Critically Endangered following the incursion of amphibian chytridiomycosis, which caused an 85% population decline in less than 18 months on Dominica and near-extinction in the same amount of time on Montserrat. The emergence of this disease provided a rare opportunity for real-time data collection on its impact and for the trialling mitigation measures, such as in situ treatment of frogs with an anti-fungal drug. Following the initial epidemic emergence, the disease has become endemic on both islands and research has continued to improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind an apparent nascent recovery on Dominica and the outcomes of reintroductions on Montserrat.
Amphibian chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease that has caused global precipitous declines in hundreds of amphibian populations and the decline or extinction of over 200 species. The Amphibian Conservation Action Plan advocates assurance breeding programmes to prevent further extinctions; however, as the pathogen that causes the disease remains present in the native habitats of these species their ultimate recovery is uncertain. For catastrophic losses of amphibian species to be averted, alternative mitigation techniques need to be developed. This meeting will present the work of the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme, a world-leading consortium including ZSL scientists that is devoted to understanding how to mitigate the impact of chytridiomycosis by using the mountain chicken frog case study as a model.
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- Dr Helen Meredith, Executive Director, Amphibian Survival Alliance
Introducing the mountain chicken frog
Helen joined the Amphibian Suvival Alliance (ASA) as Executive Director in 2016, following 10 years working on the coordination of global conservation actions for amphibians. She coordinated the EDGE Amphibians initiative at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) from 2006-2011, developing conservation programmes for evolutionarily distinct and threatened species, and raising awareness of the plight of amphibians. She recently completed her PhD at the Institute of Zoology (ZSL) and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (University of Kent) on “Improving the impact of amphibian conservation”, which focused on developing the practice of evidence-based conservation decision-making. During this time, she was also a Programme Officer for the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group, contributing to the development of ASG’s strategy and the Amphibian Conservation Action Plan (ACAP), which acts as a vital roadmap for the work ASA. Helen is committed to continuing to promote collaboration across the amphibian conservation community and beyond, and celebrating the amazing work of ASA’s partners and the remarkable diversity of amphibians around the world.
- Dr Mike Hudson, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Disease driven near extinction of the mountain chicken: the inside story
Mike Hudson has been involved in conservation science throughout his education, carrying out projects on an invasive mongoose and a critically endangered lemur during his Undergraduate and Masters degrees respectively. After a conservation science internship at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, he began a PhD on the conservation management of the mountain chicken frog with the University of Kent, IoZ and Durrell. His PhD covered much of the work you will hear about today. Mike has recently begun work at Durrell as a Conservation Scientist on the next phase of the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme on Montserrat, but continues to be based at IoZ.
- Dr Christopher Michaels, Acting Lead Keeper, Herpetology, ZSL
Ex-situ populations of Mountain Chickens: management and importance for conservation
Chris is an amphibian and reptile biologist who works in the Herpetology Section at ZSL London Zoo. After an undergraduate at the University of Oxford he gained his doctorate in amphibian conservation from the University of Manchester. Alongside zookeeping duties, Chris’ research interests include amphibian and reptile captive husbandry, physiology, behaviour, natural history and conservation strategy. He also works on conservation projects, including those for Mexican Ambystoma salamanders, British pool frogs and Indian amphibians. He has worked with mountain chickens since starting at ZSL in 2014 and has contributed captive breeding and research in the species since.
- Dr Mike Hudson, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Emergency action: in-situ anti-fungal treatment during a chytridiomycosis epidemic
- Benjamin Tapley, Curator of Herpetology, ZSL
Conservation management of the mountain chicken on Dominica
Benjamin is a conservation biologist at ZSL. Ben’s primary interests include the conservation breeding and captive management of amphibians. Ben studied conservation biology at the University of Surrey Roehampton and did his MSc in Conservation Biology at the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology. Ben is currently involved in several amphibian conservation programmes and is currently working on Chinese giant salamanders in China, Mountain chicken frogs from the Caribbean and Megophryid frogs in Vietnam. Ben is a Facilitator, IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group, Captive Breeding Working Group; Chair of BIAZA Reptile & Amphibian Working Group; and Amphibian Regional Collection Plan Coordinator, EAZA.
Sarah-Louise Adams, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Trial reintroductions of mountain chickens into a Bd infected Montserrat; what did we learn?
Sarah first travelled to Montserrat in 2009 to assist with the itraconazole trial project run by Durrell and ZSL. After six months of ‘washing frogs’ and witnessing one spectacular volcanic explosion, she was recruited to manage the Darwin funded project “Saving the Montserrat mountain chicken”. She spent a further three years releasing, radio-tracking, catching and swabbing mountain chickens to provide Dr Mike Hudson with data for his PhD. Sarah now works for Durrell based in the UK office in Bath developing projects and raising funds to further our mission to save species from extinction.
- Chaired by Professor Andrew Cunningham, ZSL
Andrew Cunningham joined the Institute of Zoology in 1988 as Veterinary Pathologist for the Zoological Society of London; a job which involved carrying out diagnostic pathology on zoo and wild animal species. Since 2001, he has been Head of Wildlife Epidemiology at the IoZ, leading a team of researchers working on wildlife diseases, with particular reference to biodiversity conservation, on a wide range of animal taxa: from snails to whales. He is currently Deputy Director of the Institute of Zoology.
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