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When is a chicken not a chicken?

Posted: 13th September, 2017

The answer? When it has four legs rather than two and croaks instead of clucks. Today is Mountain Chicken Day, a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the mountain chicken frog, a large, Critically Endangered amphibian endemic to the islands of Dominica and Montserrat.

Having once occupied a number of other Caribbean islands, this species population has dramatically decreased by 90% over the past ten years, making it one of the world’s rarest frogs. In fact it is believed that there are now only two mountain chickens on the entire island of Montserrat and less than 50 across both islands. The frog’s dramatic demise has been attributed to a number of threats, including habitat destruction, hunting, and volcanic activity. However, the major factor in the recent population crash has been an outbreak of a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis (caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) which currently has no cure and is known to be a major problem for amphibians worldwide.  

BIAZA members ZSL (Zoological Society of London), Chester Zoo, Jersey Zoo, Paignton Zoo, along with EAZA member Norden’s Ark zoo in Sweden, have been working together to help save the species. This is being achieved through conservation breeding programmes at home to build up numbers, reintroduction trials on the island of Montserrat, moratoriums on hunting, and the development of diagnostic tools to quickly identify infected animals.

Mountain chicken frog keeper at ZSL London Zoo, Francesca Servini said: “Highly revered on their native islands, the huge frogs - which are about 20 times the weight of a common frog - are so named because they were once an island delicacy, and apparently taste of chicken.

“Mountain chicken frog day is a chance for us to celebrate this highly endangered species of frog, and raise some much needed awareness for their cause.”

To mark Mountain Chicken Day, BIAZA zoos involved in the conservation programme are holding a number of events today and this weekend, 16 & 17 September, to raise awareness of the frog with their visitors. Visit their websites for more information on the activities on offer and the vital role they are playing in mountain chicken conservation.

Chester Zoo

ZSL 

Jersey Zoo

Paignton Zoo

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