One of the world’s rarest species of amphibians, the mountain chicken frog, has been airlifted to safety from Montserrat in a last-ditch attempt to save it from extinction. 50 mountain chicken frogs (leptodactylus fallax) have been removed from their natural habitat in the face of the spread of the chytrid fungus, which is devastating amphibian populations worldwide. The Zoological Society London (ZSL) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, based in Jersey, have each provided a home for 12 of the frogs. Another 26 have gone to Parken zoo in Stockholm. The plan is to breed the rescued frogs in captivity in a bid to save the species from extinction.
Montserrat is one of only two sites where the once-common mountain chicken is found, but hundreds of the frogs-one the world’s largest species-have been killed in the last few weeks by the disease. The mountain chicken-named so because its flesh is said to taste like chicken-is threatened by hunting for food and loss of habitat, and most recently by outbreaks of the chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus is a disease which infects the skin through which many amphibians drink and breathe. In recent decades it has spread rapidly, and some scientists believe the situation is worsening as temperatures rise due to of climate change. The other stronghold of the species, Dominica, saw populations crash from around 2002 onwards as a result of the disease, which is thought to have spread to Montserrat late last year or earlier this year.