The Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme (MCRP) have recently begun the first phase of trials in the creation of an environmental SAFE haven from the deadly amphibian fungus Batrachochytrium dendroatidis, more commonly known as chytrid.
The mountain chicken (Leptodactylus fallax), now Critically Endangered as a direct result of the fungus, is a giant frog species found on only two Caribbean islands, Montserrat and Dominica. The population on Montserrat experienced what is believed to be one of the fastest declines of a vertebrate ever recorded, having been reduced to only two known wild individuals since the arrival of the disease back in 2009.
This project builds on previous reintroductions of captive bred mountain chickens, which identified a reduction in chytrid related mortalities to zero during the hot wet season. During this season, temperatures regularly exceed 28ºC, the temperature at which laboratory studies have shown chytrid begins to experience mortality. Our safe haven aims to maintain these temperatures year round, through easily implementable habitat manipulation techniques that include the provision of permanent solar heated ponds and management of canopy cover to maximize solar radiation to ground level. These areas should act to reduce chytrid load as the mountain chickens move through them, enabling them to survive in an environment where the fungus is now abundant. Over time this process of exposure and treatment should facilitate the development of a natural immune response to the fungus.
To learn more about our project and find out how you can be a part of the solution, check out our project at www.experiment.com/mountainchicken or follow mountain chicken project on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (@ReWildCaribbean).
Photo: Mountain chicken © Sarah-Louise Adams, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust