Last April, in a bid to save the species from extinction after the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus throughout its habitat in Montserrat and Dominica, one of the world’s rarest species of amphibians, the mountain chicken frog, was airlifted to safety to zoos in Great Britain and Sweden. 50 healthy mountain chicken frogs (leptodactylus fallax) were removed at the time from an isolated mountainous area of Montserrat called Fairy Walk. The emergency rescue operation is now reporting a major breakthrough with the birth of four batches of tadpoles at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey and Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The tadpoles could produce 100 frogs to help repopulate areas of Montserrat and Dominica unaffected by the spread of the virus.
Gerado Garcia, head of herpetology at Durrell, said: “Not only have we been able to start breeding the frogs within the first six months of the rescue operation, but we were also able to watch and film the females feeding unfertilised eggs to their tadpoles. These are incredible images that show us a new facet of their behaviour as we race to save them from extinction.” (The video can be seen through the link to the Guardian article below.)
The chytrid fungus is a disease which infects the skin through which many amphibians drink and breathe, and can cause adult frogs to become lethargic and die within a month. It has been blamed for significant amphibian declines in the rainforests of Australia and Central America: in 2002 the disease spread rapidly through Dominica and eliminated some 80% of the population.
The conservation effort in Montserrat aims to ensure a “measurable increase in the security of the population”, and hopes to reintroduce the frogs to disease-free areas of Montserrat within the next two years.
For the report in London’s Guardian go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/12/endangered-mountain-chicken-frog
Photograph: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust