28 August 2016

Our amphibian programme focuses on the most endangered vertebrate group in the animal kingdom, with more than a third of the 6600 known species threatened with extinction. Addressing their extinction crisis is thought to be one of the greatest conservation challenges ever faced but it is something we’re attempting to tackle by working closely with our partners.

A high priority for us is the protection of one particular amphibious species; the critically endangered mountain chicken frog. It is estimated that there is less than 50 individuals left on the Caribbean islands of Montserrat and Dominica.

Mountain chicken
Mountain chicken

Similarly to many amphibian species around the globe, the fungal disease chytridmycosis is one of the main threats to the mountain chicken frog – there is currently no cure and it is very difficult to control its spread. The mountain chicken is also seriously threatened by their use as a food source for local people.

We are part of an international campaign which aims to save this species and build up numbers on these islands before it’s too late. We are working on both in-situ and ex-situ projects, including a breeding and research programme, trialling the release of young adult frogs onto the island of Montserrat.

We are also the coordinator of the captive management population of this species and are working with universities and conservation scientists to carry out research, much of which is done in specially built laboratories here at the zoo.

Unfortunately, the population numbers are currently worrying low and as a result we hosted a critical meeting to discuss the long-term management plan for the mountain chicken.

Facilitated by Kristine Schad, population biologist for the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), we welcomed a number of conservation scientists with the aim of setting roles and goals to ensure that the population gets back on track.

Conservation scientists meet at Chester Zoo to discuss the long-term management plan for the mountain chicken
Conservation scientists meet at Chester Zoo to discuss the long-term management plan for the mountain chicken

Other participants include our curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, Gerardo Garcia, Ben Baker, Pip Carter-Jones and Katie Upton from Chester Zoo, Benjamin Tapley from ZSL, Matthias Goetz, Durrell Zoo and Natalia D’Souza, Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent.

We’ll keep you up to date with the project and any future developments resulting from the meeting.