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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

PRESS RELEASES FROM DURRELL WILDLIFE: Mountain Chicken

Abstract:

An emergency rescue operation to save the critically endangered mountain chicken frog from certain extinction has had a major breakthrough with the birth of four batches of tadpoles at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Parken Zoo.

Body:

An emergency rescue operation to save the critically endangered mountain chicken frog from certain extinction has had a major breakthrough with the birth of four batches of tadpoles at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Parken Zoo. Conservationists at Durrell are also delighted to have captured high quality film footage of the female frogs caring for their young, giving an invaluable insight into the behaviour of this species. The births at the two institutions follow a rescue mission earlier this year, during which 50 individuals were taken from the Caribbean island of Montserrat following the outbreak of a deadly fungal disease called
Chytridiomycosis. These tadpoles are now the best hope of saving this species on the island.

The mountain chicken frog Leptodactylus fallax is one of the largest frogs in the world, but it has also become one of the most threatened. Thought to have once occurred on seven Caribbean islands, it is now restricted to Montserrat and Dominica. However, the arrival of chytrid fungus all but wiped out the population on Dominica and since February this year has caused major declines in Montserrat pushing this species to the brink of extinction.

Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust has worked with mountain chickens in Montserrat and in captivity for ten years. As soon as dead frogs were discovered by the Montserrat Department of Environment, Durrell sent a team of herpetological and veterinary experts to the island to survey the extent of the disease and train local forestry staff in bio-security techniques to limit the spread of the disease. A cause for hope came with the discovery of an apparently healthy population that had remained isolated in one of the most important sites for the frog, a location in a mountainous area, called Fairy Walk.

A recovery programme was quickly set up and 50 frogs were brought into captivity to breed and ensure the long term survival of the species. Twelve frogs came to Durrell’s headquarters in Jersey, 12 went to London Zoo and 26 to Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna, Sweden. All frogs are kept in strict bio-secure conditions to minimise any risk of disease transmission either to or from these animals. The challenge for each of the institutions holding the animals was to get them to reproduce, as they are notoriously difficult to breed because of the intense parental care behaviour. Although there are mountain chickens in more than 20 institutions worldwide, only Durrell has managed to breed them regularly in Europe since 1999.

These four batches could result in over 100 frogs available within the first generation born from the rescued population. Dr. Gerardo GarcĂ­a, Durrell’s Head of Herpetology, says this is extremely exciting;

“Not only have we been able to start breeding the frogs within the first six months of the rescue
operation but we were also able to watch and film the females feeding unfertilised eggs to their
tadpoles. It is normally such a private and secretive moment that we never thought we would be able to capture it with such clarity. These are incredible images that show us a new facet of their behaviour as we race to save them from extinction.”

The goal of the captive breeding programme is to build up a large number of frogs that can be
introduced back into Montserrat to chytrid free areas of the island within the next two years. The birth of these four batches is an important step towards this goal.

Through the collaborative efforts of Durrell, Parken Zoo and the Zoological Society of London the restoration of this species looks promising by studying the spread of the fungus in the wild, how it may be controlled and then how animals can be placed in safe locations on the island.
Helena Olsson, Zoo Director of Parken Zoo was very excited when the nests were confirmed fertile, “I have been working closely with colleagues in Jersey to create the conditions that would best replicate the situation in the wild and get the animals breeding. We used modeller’s clay to build nest burrows that would suit the frogs and it seems to have worked. Our huge commitment to this programme has bourn fruit and we’re proud to be part of the effort to reverse the fortunes of this species”.

Additional information

Chytridiomycosis

Amphibian chytridiomycosis was first discovered in 1998, when it was found to be the main cause of amphibian declines in the rain forests of Australia and Central America. Since then, this disease has been associated with amphibian declines and extinctions in many countries. Indeed, it has been found to be an emerging threat to > 300 species (of frog, toad, newt and salamander) representing at least 14 amphibian families across 6 continents. In Dominica, which is the other island with mountain chickens, chytrid first emerged in 2002 when large numbers were reported to be dead or dying. The disease quickly spread across the island and the mountain chicken population declined by approximately 80% within two years of the first confirmed cases.
The mountain chicken recovery programme

A Species Action Plan (SAP) is a scientifically authoritative, strategic document that defines specific, measurable objectives and actions for conserving priority species. The SAP for the Mountain Chicken in Montserrat was developed at a participatory workshop, held in October 2007 in Montserrat. The Plan’s Vision is of “a thriving, sustainably managed population of mountain chickens generating pride in Montserrat’s natural and cultural heritage for present and future generations.” Its aim is to bring about “a measurable increase in the security of the mountain chicken population on Montserrat” over the next five years. Due to the outbreak of the chytrid fungus in Montserrat early this year a Recovery Programme is being developed to stop the accelerated process of extinction of the wild populations in the island and their revival through an intensive captive breeding and reintroduction programme.

Caron Glover, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Press Office
Tel: +44 (0)1534 860026/00
Fax: +44 (0)1534 860001
Email: pressoffice@durrell.org
Website: www.durrell.org

Note to editors:

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust was founded by author and naturalist Gerald Durrell fifty years ago with a mission to save species worldwide, and it has a proven track record of doing just that.

Species that have been pulled back from the brink include the Mauritius kestrel, pink pigeon, echo parakeet and Mallorcan midwife toad, and our dedicated conservationists are hard at work in threatened habitats around the world continuing the battle to protect and conserve many more.

With its international headquarters in Jersey, the Trust has built up a worldwide reputation for its pioneering conservation techniques, developed under the leadership of its founder, the late renowned author and naturalist Gerald Durrell. Today, Durrell Wildlife is continuing to develop its overseas work in new areas of the world, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities of endemic animals, which make such a valuable contribution to global biodiversity.

"When asked, as I frequently am, why I should concern myself so deeply with the conservation of animal life, I reply that I have been very lucky and that throughout my life the world has given me the most enormous pleasure. But the world is as delicate and as complicated as a spider's web. If you touch one thread you send shudders running through all the other threads. We are not just touching the web we are tearing great holes in it." Gerald Durrell 1925-1995.

GLEN VAUDREY: Weird Weekends and Skunk Apes

Fresh back from my first Weird Weekend, having placed my treasured golden baboon in pride of place on my shelf of cryptozoological wonder, and my doesn’t it just catch the light.

If you have never attended a Weird Weekend I can do nothing but wholly recommend the experience; there is really nothing like it. Plenty of interesting stories and tales being told and that’s before you even get to see a presentation. All the speakers gave fascinating talks, so much so that you didn’t even notice their painted faces until they had finished speaking.

On Sunday morning a film called Southern Fried Bigfoot was shown. It featured an image of the Florida skunk ape; one of a series of anonymous pictures of this mystery North American ape that were taken in 2000 by a mystery woman who had concerns that it was an escaped orangutan. While you may wonder if the creature featured really is a smelly ape or a hoax it reminded me of something I had seen before.



Is it just me or does the skunk ape picture resemble the cover of ‘Out of the Shadows Mystery Animals of Australia’ published 1994? I wonder, is it just a coincidence?

CFZ PEOPLE: Marjorie Braund

Marjorie Braund, the lady who since 1971 (38 years, for goodness sakes) has been like a second mother to me, and who is grandmother to my three nephews David, Ross and Greg Braund-Phillips, is gravely ill in the North Devon hospice.

I have visited her each evening since the Weird Weekend, and yesterday I took her some holy water from Lourdes, which Lizzy brought down.

There are very few people in the world that I love as much as I love Marjorie Braund, and I ask you all to remember her in your prayers and supplications to whatever deity you believe in.

We have, by the way, on a slightly different tack, but one that is still on-topic, offered to install and maintain a fishtank at the hospice in perpetuity as part of our outreach project....

WEIRD WEEKEND: Thank you from the kids



On Monday Sharon Bennett and her three children came to visit us. Sharon is in charge of co-ordinating the food at the Village Hall during the event, and did (as always) a magnificent job. The children brought me these pictures, which I wanted to share with you...

I am incredibly touched

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Do you like news? Do you like puns? Then you’ll love Yesterday’s News Today:

Delight at lake as harrier chicks are raised

'Don't panic' advice after jellyfish seen off Weymouth

Noisy Sturminster Newton cockerel is nothing to crow about

Poole explorer discovers rat-eating plant

Credit crunching staycationers boost local wildlife charity

Name the baby giraffe

Sexy snakes slip into suburbs

HerpDigest.org: The Only Free Weekly Electronic Newsletter That Reports on The Latest News on Herpetological Conservation and Science

Cockroaches future-proofed against climate change

Don’t let them know that though; they’ll only start to get cocky about it.