Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 09:12
PAIGNTON Zoo has joined a global conservation project with the arrival of a rare species.
It is now home to a giant frog which has two misfortunes — it is both tasty and large enough to be a meal.
The mountain chicken, or giant ditch frog, is one of the largest frogs in the world weighing in at more than 2lbs.
A zoo spokesman said: "The mountain chicken might be one of the most-confusing animals in the world. It is not a bird and it doesn't live in the mountains but it is certainly one of the most endangered."
Disease and the threat is human consumption has contributed to its decline.
"The national dish of Dominica, the mountain chicken was so-called because of its large size and because its meat is said to taste like chicken.
"Its importance to Dominican culture is reflected in its inclusion in the national coat of arms.
"On Montserrat, in the Caribbean, the eruption of the island's volcano destroyed vital habitat."
It is listed as critically endangered and there are only about 160 individuals in captivity anywhere in the world
Now Paignton Zoo has taken receipt of its first mountain chicken, a four-year-old female has from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust at Jersey Zoo via the Zoological Society of London.
She is being kept under strict bio-security conditions to protect against the spread of disease.
Mike Bungard, curator of lower vertebrates, said: "We want to get used to the basic husbandry of the species before we take on more.
"The plan is for us to act as a holding station for first generation zoo born.
"The plan is to release these frogs into the wild, although that relies on overcoming the problems in the wild that caused the decline in the first place."
The wild population has declined by 80 per cent in the last 10 years and the species is now critically endangered.
There are thought to be just 8,000 individuals left, and the species is found on the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Montserrat, though its range formerly extended to Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Zoological Society of London are leading the conservation work.
Paignton Zoo head reptile keeper Rod Keen is going to Jersey Zoo at the end of the month to train to work with the species.