Critically Endangered Frogs Surviving In New Home
May 3, 2012

Critically Endangered Frogs Surviving In New Home

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust reports that a critically endangered frog species has found new hope in a new home.

The conservationists reported that captive "mountain chicken" frogs that were reintroduced to the Caribbean island of Montserrat are alive and well.

The mountain chicken frogs are one of the world's largest frog species, but its population has declined by as much as 80 percent in the wild.  Some of the female frogs can weigh a couple of pounds.

"Due to their size they have very large meaty thighs which they use to leap long distances," Sarah-Louise Smith, project coordinator for the Mountain Chicken Recovery Program, told BBC News. "Locally their meat is a delicacy, apparently they taste like chicken."

The frogs have been hunted for their meat, and Smith says that they were served up to restaurants and hotels to tourists that visited the island.

Not only does the island's active volcano threaten the species, but also the infectious disease known as Chytridiomycosis.

Only two uninfected populations remain, and conservationists from Durrell, London Zoo, Chester Zoo and Parken Zoo set out an emergency rescue mission to airlift 50 of the frogs from the island.

A dozen of the frogs were then relocated to Jersey, U.K., where herpetology keepers successfully bred them in captivity.

After breeding, the conservationists then released 33 healthy frogs back onto the island in January, and since then a field team has spent three months tracking their progress.

"Some of the frogs were calling in the forest in the first night," Smith told BBC. "Three months later the fact that we still have live frogs in the release site looking healthy and calling is a very encouraging sign."

The team spent six nights a week radio tracking the frogs, each of which have an electronic tag injected in them by the researchers.

"Some frogs will be found under ground in burrows or at the bottom of ponds so we would never find them without this technique," Smith told BBC. "When we find the frogs we collect data such as location, swabs of the skin to test for the chytrid and any signs they might be breeding."

She says that although some of the released frogs are infected with Chytridiomycosis now, this may help scientists better understand the problem.

"All the information we've collected was previously unknown for mountain chicken and will help us understand the processes that are going on so that we are able to make informed decisions on how to manage the species," she told BBC.