Urgent Conservation Efforts Underway to Save Dominica’s Mountain Chicken Frogs from Extinction

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Urgent Conservation Efforts Underway to Save Dominica's Mountain Chicken Frogs from Extinction 2

In Dominica, the Mountain Chicken frog, a unique species native to the island, is facing imminent extinction, with only about 30 individuals remaining. Recognizing the critical situation, conservationists from local, regional, and international organizations are calling for immediate action to save this species, once an iconic part of the nation’s wildlife heritage.

Jeanelle Brisbane, a Wildlife Conservationist and Ecologist at the Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks Division, shed light on the efforts made in 2022 to save the Mountain Chicken. A key expedition to Montserrat was undertaken to collaborate with global partners and create a conservation action plan. This plan’s cornerstone was the need for accurate population data to inform strategic decisions.

A comprehensive survey conducted from June to August 2023 involved extensive fieldwork over 46 consecutive nights. The survey revealed that the Mountain Chicken frogs are concentrated in two primary locations in Dominica, with 23 individuals identified, including adults, juveniles, and babies. The estimated total population stands at around 30, indicating the species’ precarious situation.

The Mountain Chicken frog’s decline can be traced back to the 1800s, with factors like the introduction of the mongoose in Martinique and the spread of invasive species across the Caribbean. The situation worsened with the outbreak of the chytrid fungus in the early 2000s, leading to a rapid decline in the population.

In response, conservationists have taken significant steps to protect the species. They have developed methods to treat the frogs affected by chytrid, achieving the world’s first successful elimination of the fungus from a wild population. Research has identified genetic markers linked to resilience against the disease, and conservation strategies have been implemented in both Dominica and Montserrat.

In Montserrat, the frogs depend on human intervention for survival, while in Dominica, they show greater resilience. However, human activities like chemical dumping, land clearing, and construction, along with threats from invasive species and extreme weather conditions, are exacerbating the challenges faced by the Mountain Chicken.

Conservationists are now prioritizing interventions based on the survey data. Efforts include identifying suitable habitats, proposing protected areas, and developing a joint conservation action plan. Plans for a sanctuary are being discussed, with the aim of making significant progress within the next year.

Luke Jones, Caribbean Programs Manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, expresses hope despite the grim situation. He advocates for a protected area in Dominica that would safeguard not only the Mountain Chickens but also other endangered species like the iguanas and Sisserou parrot.

The conservation team is focusing on annual surveys, regional support, and community involvement. They encourage locals to report sightings of the Mountain Chicken, which could lead to discoveries of previously unseen populations. Through these concerted efforts, there is hope that this critical species can be saved from the brink of extinction.

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