As many people reading this will have have seen from the article published on the Guardian website we were successful in our mission to unite the two remaining wild mountain chicken frogs on Montserrat. This true life fairy-tale was made possible from funds raised through an online appeal run by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and further support from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Chester Zoo. The fieldwork involved staff from Durrell, ZSL and Chester Zoo working alongside the Montserrat Department of Environment and carried out under the auspices of the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme (MCRP), a multi-partner programme involving Durrell, ZSL, Chester Zoo, Norden’s Ark and the Governments of Montserrat and Dominica. This story can now be told for you over this blog series .
These two individuals – one female and one male – are the last two wild mountain chicken frogs on Montserrat known to have survived the deadly disease outbreak in 2009 caused by the chytrid fungus Batrachochytium dendrobatidis. Why these two individuals survived when thousands of others perished is still unclear. One theory is that they may have some natural resistance to the disease, which if heritable, would mean any offspring could also have that resistance. As such they represent a potentially very important component in the recovery of the species. Unfortunately they were located too far away from each other on Montserrat to ever meet naturally and therefore have the opportunity to breed. A number of discussions were had between the MCRP partners over what to do about this. Finally it was decided that translocating the female to the male’s location would be the best solution; based on the belief that their best chance of successfully breeding would be in their natural habitat.
Jeff Dawson, Amphibian Programme Manager, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.