Preparing for the next phase of saving the mountain chicken

A new three year plan funded by the Darwin Initiative is now in place to aid the long-term survival of the mountain chickens on Montserrat. One of the first major events under this project ‘Enabling Montserrat to save the critically endangered mountain chicken’ is to prepare for and undertake the first release of captive-bred frogs.

Project Steering Committee meeting
Project co-ordinator Sarah-Louise Smith presents to the Project Steering Committee

The mountain chickens to be released descend from frogs rescued in 2009. This was when the chytrid fungus arrived on Montserrat and started to decimate the local frog population, and a huge effort to save them began. Mountain chickens have a complex breeding system which means that a captive breeding programme is quite difficult. However, Parken Zoo in Sweden, London’s ZSL, and Durrell Zoo on Jersey have successfully bred enough frogs to be released this January: it’s now all systems go here in Montserrat to get ready for the frogs to arrive!

Project coordinator Sarah-Louise Smith has been in-country since October liaising with local stake holders and forestry staff, undertaking mountain chicken and chytrid surveys, and finalising the work plans for the release. Now, with the arrival of the frogs imminent, final preparations are underway.

Members of the Project Steering Committee
Members of the Project Steering Committee

Temporary ponds to house the frogs on arrival and for their first few days on island need to be built, paperwork needs to be finalised so they can travel from Sweden, Jersey and the UK to Antigua and finally Montserrat, and several surveys of tree frogs (carriers of the chytrid fungus) need to be undertaken. Busy times for the team are ahead!

– Isabel Jones

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