Mountain Chicken Frog
The Mountain Chicken Frog of Montserrat has sadly become the latest tragic victim of the killer fungal disease that is sweeping through the amphibian population.
The disease known as Chytrid fungus, is believed to have been brought into Montserrat by small frogs that had been hiding away in produce that was being brought to Montserrat from its neighbour, Dominica. Dominica features the Mountain Chicken Frog on its coat of arms.
It has been suggested by conservationists, that the only way to preserve the remaining population of this frog is to take it into captivity and start breeding programmes whilst captive.
A spokesman for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust said that he was always afraid that the Chytrid fungus would be brought into Montserrat by frogs who would be hiding in the banana produce coming from Dominica. It seems that his fears have now been realised.
So what happens now? Well, the disease has spread southwards along the river systems. All populations of the frog in the north and north-west of the centre hills have been lost - there are only two remaining populations that are believed to still be healthy in the south-eastern corner.
The Mountain Chicken Frog is so called because apparently the meat tastes a bit like chicken. Even before the spread of the chytrid fungus, the frog was being hunted and this too was affecting the population.
What is happening in Montserrat is what happened to almost 80% of the chicken frog population in Dominica in 2002. The fungus (Batrachochytrium dendobatidis) was first identified over ten years ago and has spread through many hundreds of amphibian species over different continents. Most perish under it, although some species seem to be immune. It is a lack of investment into finding a solution to the problem that is holding back finding a cure, or being able to treat and cleanse infected waters. Many conservation groups believe that if the fungus was killing birds or mammals at the rate that it is killing amphibians, then much more money would have been invested to help wipe out the disease. The only way to protect the Mountain Chicken Frog at the moment therefore would be to bring it into a captive breeding programme. It is hoped that eventually, in a matter of a couple of years, that these healthy frogs will be able to return safely to the wild where they belong.
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