The first release of captive-bred mountain chickens back into the wild.
Today was a very special day. At about 2pm we all headed to the holding facility and began the task of getting a group of 17 frogs ready for release. Javier removed the stitches from each in turn, we took pre-release biometric data, checked the frequency and strength of each frog’s transmitter, popped them into individual bags, and finally inside boxes full of shredded paper for a comfy ride. The boxes were then loading into the trucks and driven across the island to the release site.
Once there, we carried the mountain chickens into the forest. Walking the familiar trail with boxes in our arms to the specific release sites was poignant: we were bringing back captive-bred animals into the environment they have evolved to be in, to help try to save the species from the brink of extinction.
We brought a couple of tents to the release site to create a ‘soft release’ for the frogs. A ‘soft release’ gives a bit more of an introduction to forest life for the frogs, and gives them chance to quieten down after being transported, rather than just putting them straight on
to the forest floor from the box. We set the tents up at the release sites and put some leaf litter inside, then let the frogs out of the bags inside the tents. We left them for about an hour to settle down, and then at dusk we unzipped the door and waited…
It seemed the frogs quite liked the tents, so after waiting about 30 minutes with the door open we did have to encourage them to hop out of the tent and explore their new home…lifting one end of the tent made the release somewhat gravity-assisted! They soon got the hang of what was going on and made a bid for freedom, one even ate a gecko as soon as it jumped out.
We just sat quietly and watched them either bound into the ghaut or up the hill a bit, and could hear calls by the time it was time for us to leave them to it. Mountain chickens were officially released into their native habitat and home of Montserrat. We were all sending them off with good luck vibes for the night, and eagerly awaited tracking them the next day to see where they had settled.