Together with the mountain chicken there are three other frog species on Dominica; the gounouj (Eleuthrodactylus amplinympha) – first discovered in 1994 and is very special since it is only found in the highlands of Dominica and nowhere else in the world; tink frog (Eleuthrodactylus martinicensis) – found on several islands in the Lesser Antilles; and Johnstone’s whistling frog
(Eleuthrodactylus johnstonei) – introduced to Dominica in the 1980s from other islands in the region.
Mountain chickens are important parts of Dominican culture, as with Montserrat they are the national dish, but they also form part of the Dominican coat of arms and are widely referred to in songs and poems.
Unfortunately the mountain chickens in Dominica are in perilously low numbers, with individuals only heard calling occasionally. It is clear that drastic actions are required to ensure that the species does not go extinct on this island. One of the first steps has been to establish the captive breeding centre within the Botanical Park. Because mountain chickens need a lot of live food, the team has had to learn how to build up breeding stocks of native insects, as importing non-native species would risk introducing them to the wild.
This is now in place and we hope soon to be able to place a number of mountain chickens originally from Montserrat within the facility so that the team can learn how best to look after and breed them before any efforts are made to bring Dominican animals in from the wild.
The field team in Montserrat will also go over to Dominica and spend some time in the field looking for wild mountain chickens as we hope to get a better understanding of the state of the remaining wild population. Learning from experience in Montserrat the goal will be to find a time when Dominican mountain chickens can be bred and released back into the wild.