London Zoo Mountain Chicken Frogs Make Comeback
July 30, 2012

London Zoo Mountain Chicken Frogs Making A Comeback, Produce Offspring

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Critically endangered frogs rescued from possible extinction at the hands of a deadly fungus have successfully bred for the first time at the London Zoo, various media outlets reported Sunday.

According to Telegraph Science Correspondent Richard Gray, the mountain chicken frogs had been rescued from the island of Montserrat, where they had been threatened by the spread of the Chytrid fungus. Chytridiomycosis, a disease associated with that microbe have been wreaking havoc on amphibians all over the world, leading scientists to rescue 50 of the frogs and airlift them to the UK.

"Housed in a bio-secure, temperature-controlled breeding unit at the Zoological Society of London, two of the rescued females have now produced 76 young," Gray said. "The mothers laid eggs in a self-made foam nest and guarded them as they developed into tadpoles, which they then fed every three to five days with unfertilized eggs“¦ The offspring will be released back into a protected and disease-free area of the wild when they are fully grown."

"We're absolutely chuffed to bits," Dr. Ian Stephen, a herpetologist at the zoo, told BBC Nature Reporter Matt Bardo. Twelve of the 50 rescued mountain chicken frogs were transported to the London Zoo, where they have been living in a biologically secure breeding unit since their arrival, Bardo said. Stephen told the BBC that he is hopeful that most of the offspring will survive and be able to be returned to the Caribbean once they become adults.

As previously reported here at RedOrbit, only two uninfected populations of these frogs remain, and they also face other threats, including being hunted for their meat or being placed in danger due to the island's volcanic activity.

After breeding, conservationists then released 33 healthy frogs back onto the island in January, and have been tracking their progress ever since. They hope that this latest group of offspring will someday be able to join them.

"These frogs are one of the most endangered animals on the planet, facing a range of threats from habitat loss to over-hunting and, most notably, the spread of the chytrid fungus," Stephen told Gray. "To have increased their numbers by 76 individuals is an incredible achievement for ZSL London Zoo and an incredible lifeline for the mountain chicken frog“¦ To say we're delighted by this accomplishment is an understatement to say the least."