I heard Quentin Bloxam, Durrell’s Director of Conservation Management interviewed on CBC’s As It Happens tonight. He was being questioned about the mountain chicken frog, a curiously named amphibian that resides throughout Dominica and Montserrat. The frog is huge (second largest in the world only to Africa’s goliath frog) and apparently tastes like chicken – like what doesn’t?
The large, brown-spotted frog is currently under extreme pressure from a deadly fungus that threatens amphibians all over the world. Chytridiomycosis is a fungus decimating frog species worldwide. Studies seem to point to the increase in the spread of the fungus due to global warming (what doesn’t global warming contribute to?). According to initial scientific opinion, the fungus breaks down the keratin in the frog’s skin (frogs only have keratin on the palms of their feet and where their legs rub against their bodies).
When asked what caused the fungus to spread, Quentin had an interesting response. He mentioned that a particular compound (name escapes my memory at the moment) found in early pregnancy testing kits may have a role to play. These kits were developed in the ’70s and used in certain parts of the world.
Could it be that the chemicals in the kits are now surfacing in the ecosystem after filtering through humans, passing through the sewage systems and entering the environment?
In order to prevent the entire extinction of the species, scientists have airlifted a total of 50 frogs (to date) off of the island and to small zoos and collections. Many are currently being housed in kiddie pools. There, if the mood strikes, they will begin a captive breeding program. In another strange twist to the story, Montserrat’s island ecosystem is so unique, it may allow for a reintroduction to the wild. Volcanic eruptions over the last many years, have created a portion of the island that is separate from the rest. It is the ideal habitat for the frogs, and it has not ever housed the fungus. A potential setting for the rebuilding of an entire species. Let’s hope it works!