Monday, 25 May 2009

More Bad News for Mountain Chickens

As previously posted, the Mountain Chicken Frog, Leptodactylus fallax, suffered catastrophic decline due to the emergence of Bd on the island of Dominica. Previous research had shown that the only other island where the species occurs, Montserrat, was Bd-free (Garcia et al. 2007, Oryx 41(3): 398-401). This is no longer the case. Bd emerged this spring on Montserrat, and dead chooks were first detected near the main port, suggesting that Bd came onto Montserrat through interisland trade ( Whatever the route of introduction, Bd has spread rapidly and it is starting to look like we may add another species to the extinct in the wild due to Bd category. Calling males are almost never heard on Dominica, and what few frogs are found there are usually morbund due to advanced chytridiomycosis. The Montserrat frogs already inhabited a narrow range due to the destruction of much of their habitat by the Soufriere Hills volcano.

Durrell, ZSL, the Montserrat government and others mobilized a massive effort to collect as many chooks as they could on Montserrat and these animals have been sent to biosecure facilities ( where they have been treated with Itraconazole and are being monitored regularly for signs of disease. The group at London Zoo appears to have responded well to treatment and males are active and, according to Ian Stephen, relatively unafraid of the activities of the staff. Hopes are that the species will be bred successfully at multiple institutions. Unfortunately, this does not address the presence of Bd on both islands that the species is native to.