Dominicas mountain frog disappears in fastest-ever extinction

Dominicas mountain frog disappears in fastest-ever extinction

There are so many of them that they are cooked as a national dish of Dominica. Every year, thousands of mountain frogs roast with garlic and pepper are eaten by islanders and tourists.

Two decades later, one of the world’s largest species of frogs has disappeared from the Caribbean. Subsequent ecological disasters have reduced the healthy and stable population of hundreds of thousands of animals to a total of 21 frogs, according to the latest scientific survey.

Surprising agility Leptodactylus fallaxs The decline has stunned biologists, who believe it is one of the fastest-ever wildlife eradication records ever recorded, an environmental disaster that shows how wildlife can be decimated and destroyed quickly. .

Andrew Cunningham, head of wildlife epidemics for the Zoological Society London (ZSL), said: “This is a wonderful animal. It can grow to a length of about 20 cm and weigh over a kilogram. Both males and females play an important role in breeding their offspring, and they are one of Dominicas’ top predators, eating insects, small mammals, snakes and other frogs.

Professor Andrew Cunningham.  He wears a gray T-shirt and smiles at the camera.  He has white hair and glasses.
Professor Andrew Cunningham. Photo: Haimerl Ralf / ZSL

Cunningham added that the island used to be amazed by the call of the male mountain chicken frog. Today there is only silence. This is a species that is facing extinction in the wild, but it was only in good health a few decades ago. Its fate sends us a clear warning of the dangers facing wildlife on earth today.

The first cause of unfortunate mountain frogs is the chytrid fungus, which first appeared in the last century and infects the skin of amphibians, most of which they drink and breathe. The frog becomes drowsy and dies within a month.

The fungus has been blamed for the dramatic decline of amphibians in many parts of the world, but nowhere has its effects been as rapid and consumed as it once was on the island of Dominica. . In the 18 months of its first appearance in 2002, it eliminated 80% of the population on the island of Mountain Frogs.

That was a shocking drop, Cunningham said. And their numbers continued to decline until they could not be found in the jungles of Dominica.

Worse is follow. Mountain frogs at the time were found elsewhere on Earth, the nearby island of Montserrat. Scientists have urged authorities there to put in place isolated measures to stop the disease from spreading across the island.

Andrs Valenzuela, wildlife health expert at the ZSLs Institute of Zoology, said the warnings failed, although in a sense we were prepared for the worst, given what had happened in Dominica. We were able to collect mountain frogs on a number of islands before the disease began to spread to them in 2009, and these animals are now being housed in biosafety containers at many European zoos, including London. .

Another encouraging news followed in Dominica with reports that some of the surviving frogs had been found and that the animals appeared to be resistant to the natural chytrid fungus. Jeanelle Brisbane, wildlife ecologist at the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Parks in Dominica and founder of WildDominique, said things looked a little better until Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.

Location map of Dominica and Montserrat

It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the island in our recorded history, and the devastation destroyed an already fragile number of frogs, reducing the number by more than 90%. Two digits.

This has left many mountain frogs once in a tragic situation. There is a collection of animals from Montserrat in Europe. Importantly, these animals are not resistant to chytrid fungi and their benefits for reintroduction are limited.

Instead, those members of Leptodactylus fallax Clinging to Dominica is resilient, but only in small populations on land with no formal protection for the species.

In addition, climate change is affecting both islands, drying up the climate system, and this is hampering efforts to save the species. Its prospects look bad, though Brisbane remains optimistic.

Weve has managed to keep the mountain frogs alive and able to survive the fungal disease for more than 20 years thanks to the cooperation that has contributed to the rescue of this species. We should not forget that. If we can keep it a little longer with the right resources, it could turn their fate around. Surely we do not give up hope.

Cunningham agreed. We still have a few years to try to do something before the mountain frogs become extinct in the wild. It’s a tense situation.

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