Sunday, December 10, 2023

Exploring World Of The Mountain Chicken: A Wildlife Adventure


The mountain chicken frog, belonging to the Leptodactylidae family, holds the distinction of being one of the world’s largest frogs, as well as the Caribbean’s largest native frog species. These impressive amphibians can attain weights of up to 1 kg (2.2 lb) and reach snout-to-vent lengths of up to 22 cm (8.7 in), although the typical adult size generally falls within the range of 17-18 cm (6.7-7.1 in). Notably, females tend to be larger than their male counterparts. In terms of their appearance, exhibit a high degree of colour variation, with their upper parts ranging from a solid chestnut-brown to displaying distinct barring or spotting patterns.

Preserving The Mountain Chicken Species

The scientifically known Leptodactylus fallax is not a poultry chicken; rather, it is a species of frog. It is formally referred to as the Giant Ditch Frog, and locally, it is sometimes called the, likely due to its robust, drumstick-like legs, which were traditionally consumed as a food source.

One Of The world’s largest Amphibians

The remarkable amphibian, ranks among the world’s largest frogs, boasting a potential weight that exceeds 40 times that of the European common frog, with some individuals reaching an impressive 1 kg in size. Their diet encompasses a diverse range of prey, including insects, snakes, small mammals, and even frogs. Although these frogs can currently be found in Dominica and Montserrat, they once enjoyed a much broader distribution.

The nearly devastating impact of amphibian chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease epidemic, came perilously close to eradicating the species. Since the introduction of the pathogen responsible for this disease in Dominica in 2002 and in Montserrat in 2009, the population has plummeted by more than 90%. Presently, Dominica hosts fewer than 100 remaining wild individuals, while in Montserrat, the species is teetering on the brink of extinction in its natural habitat.

We are actively involved in the collaborative Recovery Program, spearheading innovative efforts in the conservation of the species. Our collective research focuses on identifying potential strategies to facilitate the species’ recovery. These strategies include implementing heated water baths for managing a semi-wild population in Montserrat and conducting genomic studies to assess disease resistance in Dominica. Additionally, we maintain a secure population at London Zoo, which will serve as a critical resource for future efforts to reintroduce these cherished creatures into their natural habitat. Our ultimate goal is to restore a species that not only plays a vital role in its ecosystem but is also deeply cherished by local communities.

Challenges Facing Mountain Chickens

The impact of amphibian chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, on populations in Dominica and Montserrat has resulted in devastating consequences. This disease has led to a significant decline in populations, which are particularly vulnerable and has also affected around 500 amphibian species worldwide.

The conservation efforts for now involve experimenting with novel techniques to combat disease. One such approach under investigation is the use of solar-powered heated pools, which create a warmer environment that is inhospitable to the fungus responsible for the disease. By encouraging infected frogs to bathe in these heated pools, there is hope that their infection burden may be reduced. This shift in perspective signifies a collaborative effort to save from the brink of extinction, acknowledging the need for collective action instead of historical hunting practices.

Conservation Efforts For The Mountain Chicken Frog

This topic highlights how the population at London Zoo is actively contributing to conservation efforts This involves the development of a validated body condition score for amphibians, collaboration with UK zoos, and conducting dietary comparisons between captive and wild frogs to ensure the readiness of captive frogs for release into their natural habitat. These efforts aim to advance captive husbandry techniques and ultimately improve the success of conservation translocations.

We have played a pivotal role in the establishment of a conservation breeding centre for frogs in Dominica. Additionally, we have successfully reintroduced frogs to their natural habitat in Montserrat from our biosecure facility located at London Zoo. Our dedicated efforts focus on revitalizing frog populations and averting their extinction through captive breeding and wild reintroduction initiatives. Our research has contributed significantly to improving captive husbandry practices and enhancing pre-release health assessments for frogs.

Breeding Of Mountain Chickens

Employ a distinctive breeding process, characterized by proactive parental care for their tadpoles. Male frogs use vocalizations from within a chamber to attract females, ultimately leading to the creation of a foam nest where the eggs are deposited. Both male and female frogs then collaborate in guarding the eggs, with the female providing nourishment to the tadpoles by feeding them infertile eggs approximately once a week for about a month until they undergo metamorphosis.

The Future Of The Mountain Chicken Frog

In Montserrat, it is highly likely that the species has become extinct in its natural habitat, whereas in Dominica, we are actively partnering with local organizations to protect and closely monitor the remaining populations. This collaborative effort relies on scientific research to inform our strategies for surveys and necessary interventions aimed at securing the species’ long-term survival. Continuing investigations are actively exploring the emergence, epidemiology, and consequences of chytridiomycosis in frogs. In Dominica, this research focuses on assessing the current population size and infection status of the remaining population as well as other amphibian species native to the area.

Achievements And Objectives In The Conservation Of The Mountain Chicken Frog

Our objective is to establish robust populations of mountains. Chickens as a symbol of Dominica and Montserrat’s rich natural and cultural heritage.

  • Swift Reactivity to Population Reductions Attributed to the Fungal Infection, Amphibian Chytridiomycosis.
  • Creation of a Conservation Breeding Center in Dominica.
  • Establishing a Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory in Dominica.
  • Enhancing Local Expertise: Developing In-Country Skills in Husbandry, Field Surveys, and Laboratory Techniques.
  • Researched the onset and spread of chytridiomycosis in frogs.
  • Collaborated with partners to create a two-decade conservation strategy for the mountain chicken species.
  • Crucial Collaborator in Ex-Situ Conservation Breeding Initiatives.
  • Conservation Efforts: Sustaining a Population at London Zoo’s Biosecure Facility. With the Successful Breeding and Release of Captive Frogs in Montserrat.
  • Conducted research to enhance the care and pre-release health assessment of mountain chicken frogs in captivity.
  • Pioneering the Field: Initial Field Trials of Chytridiomycosis Treatment for Wild Amphibians

Exploring Research On ZSL’s Mountain Chicken Initiatives

In January 2016, a research project was conducted in collaboration with Professor Andrew. Cunningham and PhD student Michael Hudson at the Institute explored the efficacy of in-situ. Treatment for individual frogs using the antifungal medication itraconazole. The study revealed a higher likelihood of survival and a reduced. Occurrence of fungal infections among the treated frogs compared to those left untreated. These findings indicate that administering the drug in the natural habitat of. The frogs could serve as a valuable short-term strategy to decrease mortality caused by chytridiomycosis and enhance. The prospects of other conservation efforts, including safeguarding wild populations during periods of elevated disease risk.

August 2016: Research conducted by Professor Andrew Cunningham and PhD student Michael Hudson at the Institute of Zoology (IoZ) indicates. The mountain chicken, a species of frog, is experiencing one of the most rapid population declines ever documented. The decline has been particularly severe in Dominica, where the island-wide population has collapsed due to chytridiomycosis occurred. Within 18 months, and in Montserrat, where it took less than a year. This alarming situation underscores the urgent need to establish measures to mitigate. The impact of chytridiomycosis on amphibians at risk and to prevent the disease from spreading to new areas.


What Is The Origin Of The Name “Mountain Chicken”?

The creature referred to, scientifically identified as. Leptodactylus fallax is not a type of domesticated chicken; instead, it is a species of frog. This amphibian species is formally referred to as the Giant Ditch Frog and is commonly called. The mountain chicken, possibly due to its robust, drumstick-like legs, which were previously consumed as a food source.

Is The Flavour Of Mountain Chicken Similar To That Of Regular Chicken?

Exclusive to the islands of Montserrat and Dominica. In the eastern Caribbean Sea, the frog was once a regional culinary delicacy. This amphibian ranks among the world’s largest frogs and holds a prominent place on Dominica’s official seal. Curiously, its taste resembles that of chicken.

What Is The Maximum Size A Mountain Chicken Frog Can Attain?

Mountain chickens are a type of frog known as Leptodactylidae, which places them in the company of various frog species. These frogs earn their name from their impressive size. They can grow to weigh up to 2 pounds and reach lengths of up to 8 inches.

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