Wednesday 4 May 2016

Montserrat's last two mountain chicken frogs to be reunited to save species

Conservationists pin hopes of the species’ survival on breeding the Caribbean island’s last known male and female in the wild

Wednesday 27 April 2016 10.34 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 27 April 201615.23 BST

In what could be a fairytale ending, conservationists are hoping to reunite the last two remaining wild mountain chicken frogs living on Montserrat and help their species breed on the Caribbean island for the first time since 2009.

project led by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust will next month take the last remaining female and “translocate” her into the territory of the last remaining male as part of a 20-year recovery plan for the species, one of the world’s largest and rarest frogs that exists on just two Caribbean islands, Montserrat and Dominica.

The two frogs are the island’s only known survivors of an outbreak of the deadly chytrid fungus disease, a pandemic ravaging amphibian populations worldwide.

Montserrat’s remaining male and female live roughly 500m apart among the boulders of a steep, fast-flowing stream in the rainforest. Over the next few weeks, the team of conservationists will first try to locate the male by his deep, whooping mating call, which begins as the rains of the breeding season start to fall. Then they will try to find the female further downstream.

Providing the two can be found, the team will move the female into the male’s territory and set up a few artificial nests to encourage her to stay. There will be several weeks of intense monitoring where two conservationists will hike for an hour to and from the stream and spend around six hours every night keeping watch on the female to make sure she hasn’t moved back to her old home.

The ultimate hope is that over the next four months of the breeding season, the two mate and nest, something that has never before been observed in the wild on the island.

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