Approximately 30 ‘mountain chickens’ are left in Dominica, prompting conservationists to call for immediate action

Mountain Chicken Frog aka ‘crapaud’ of Dominica

Dominica, holding the distinction of being the sole country in the world with a wild population of the Mountain Chicken, stands on the brink of losing its unique wildlife heritage as only approximately 30 of these giant ditch frogs are left on the island, teetering on the edge of extinction. In response to this critical situation, conservationists from local, regional, and international spheres are urgently sounding the alarm, calling for immediate action to preserve the last remaining population of Mountain Chickens–once considered the nation’s unofficial national dish.

Jeanelle Brisbane, a Wildlife Conservationist and Ecologist at the Forestry, Wildlife, and Parks Division, emphasized the significance of the year 2022 for the team. During this period, they embarked on a crucial expedition to the sister island, Montserrat, collaborating with global partners to devise a conservation action plan for the endangered Mountain Chicken.

A pivotal outcome of this collaboration was the realization of the need for population data to inform decision-making. Consequently, a comprehensive survey was initiated, aimed at conducting a population census, identifying threats, determining the species’ locations, and collecting genetic samples. This ambitious project involved the participation of 28 individuals from 13 organizations and 12 countries, spanning from regional neighbors like Anguilla to more distant locations such as Chile and Latvia.

Executing the survey demanded extensive planning, energy, and human resources, spanning five months. The fieldwork unfolded over 46 consecutive days, from June to August 2023, with teams working tirelessly from 7 pm to 4 am. During the survey period, 23 frogs were discovered across Dominica, primarily concentrated in two strongholds. Notably, 18 of these were found at one site, while five were identified at the other. The recorded figures included 13 adults, two juveniles, five babies, and three individuals whose age classification remained undetermined.

Site one was estimated to have between 17 to 44 individuals total, with an average of 25, while site two ranged from four to 27 individuals, indicating a potential eight frogs. Cumulatively, the survey results indicated a 95% confidence level that there are only 30 Mountain Chickens remaining in Dominica.

Crucially, Brisbane highlighted that this is not a consolidated population but rather dispersed groups on opposite sides of the island.

How did we reach this point?

In the pre-1500s era, the mountain chicken was once widespread throughout much of the Eastern Caribbean chain, extending from neighboring islands like St. Kitts down to St. Lucia. Fast forward to the present day, and this frog, capable of reaching sizes up to 1kg, is now confined to Dominica and Montserrat.

The eradication of the Mountain Chicken in countries such as St. Kitts, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia began in the early 1800s with the introduction of the mongoose into Martinique. The invasive species then spread to other islands, leading to a further decrease in the early 1900s.

After its extinction in these islands, Brisbane highlights that the consumption of the animal gained popularity rapidly. A 2022 survey conducted for a management plan revealed that between 8000 and 36,000 frogs were hunted annually in Dominica’s forests before the chytrid fungus emerged.

Adding to these challenges was the volcanic eruption in Montserrat, resulting in a significant reduction in the population. However, the primary factor contributing to the mountain chicken's eradication can be attributed to the soil-borne infectious fungal disease known as chytrid, which arrived in the early 2000s.

Since the introduction of the disease, responsible for the extinction of several other species, it marked the fastest observed decline of a species (the Mountain Chicken) occurring within 18 months. Over this brief period, more than 80% of the amphibian population was completely wiped out in Dominica.

Actions taken to preserve the Mountain Chicken Frog

In response to the rapid decline of the mountain chicken in both Dominica and Montserrat, global partners mobilized efforts to preserve this species, which graces the Dominica’s Coat of Arms.

As leaders on the world stage combating the disease affecting this top endemic predator, the team developed methods to treat the frogs suffering from the illness, achieving the first successful elimination of the fungus from a wild population.

“No other species in this world has managed to successfully eliminate chytrid from the population. Dominica and Montserrat actually lead in the world stage when it comes to conservation of amphibians, especially against the battle of chytrid,” Brisbane highlighted.

“We’ve identified genes linked to resilience. So the frog still gets sick, similar to how we do when we get the flu, but they are bouncing back, because of this genetic resilience that they are developing over time,” she added.

The initial strategy involved creating an institute facility at the Botanic Garden and sending mountain chickens to zoos across Europe, from Sweden to the United Kingdom.

A two-pronged approach was also taken. In Dominica, the focus was on researching the wild population’s survival, understanding threats, and mitigating them. While in Montserrat, live interventions took place in a semi-wild enclosure, where the first successful eradication of chytrid from wild living frogs occurred.

Over time, research has indicated that the Mountain Chickens in Montserrat are unable to thrive without human intervention, relying heavily on conservationists providing them with antifungal baths. However, the situation differs in Dominica, where the local frogs have demonstrated greater resilience.

In 2019, a scientist from the Zoological Society of London conducted research in Dominica, swabbing the animals and identifying distinct genes in the frogs of both Dominica and Montserrat. The study revealed a group of alleles potentially responsible for the Dominican frogs’ ability to persist in the wild and maintain their resilience.

What’s Next? Calls for immediate action

In the present day, while some Mountain Chickens are still succumbing to chytrid, additional threats from human activities are exacerbating the challenges faced by this nearly extinct species. Brisbane points out that human actions, such as chemical dumping on farms, clear-cutting of land, illegal dumping and burning, poaching, and irresponsible land use, including construction without proper information, are intensifying the pressure on Mountain Chickens.

The invasive Cuban tree frog and the prevalence of feral dogs, cats, and rats are also significant contributors to the decline of the species. Moreover, recent extreme dry weather conditions during the summer have led conservationists to theorize that the hotter, drier conditions drove the frogs closer to water sources, increasing the risk of roadkill. This unexpected threat was not considered for over two decades, and two frogs were found dead during the survey period.

As such, Brisbane emphasized that the next step is to utilize the survey information to prioritize conservation interventions. This involves identifying suitable habitats for Mountain Chickens, proposing protected areas strategically, and understanding the population better by exploring historical sites. A joint conservation action plan between Dominica and other islands will also be developed, recognizing the interconnectedness of the ecosystems.

Regarding the creation of a sanctuary, she disclosed that it could be situated on either public or private land. However, before moving forward, crucial details need clarification. This includes its development and whether it will mirror Montserrat’s setup. Once all necessary information is gathered, the team aims to expedite efforts, evaluate fundraising requirements, and establish legislative, policy, and guideline prerequisites. The objective is to make substantial progress within the upcoming year.

For his part, Luke Jones, Caribbean Programs Manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, noted that despite the concerning narrative surrounding the Mountain Chicken’s path towards extinction, there is a current sense of hope. He stressed the need for a protected area not only for Mountain Chickens but also for other critically endangered animals in Dominica such as the iguanas and Sisserou parrot.

Regarding the absence of the frogs in partner zoos, the experts explained that maintaining them in their native region, like Dominica, is more feasible due to synchronization with the natural climate. Looking ahead, the conservationists aim for annual surveys with regional support and encourage community involvement. The conservationist calls on community members to report Mountain Chicken sightings, as community outreach has previously led to the discovery of frog populations not seen in over 15-20 years.

Copyright 2012 Dominica News Online, DURAVISION INC. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

Disclaimer: The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of and its parent company or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by We never censor based on political or ideological points of view, but we do try to maintain a sensible balance between free speech and responsible moderating.

We will delete comments that:

  • contain any material which violates or infringes the rights of any person, are defamatory or harassing or are purely ad hominem attacks
  • a reasonable person would consider abusive or profane
  • contain material which violates or encourages others to violate any applicable law
  • promote prejudice or prejudicial hatred of any kind
  • refer to people arrested or charged with a crime as though they had been found guilty
  • contain links to "chain letters", pornographic or obscene movies or graphic images
  • are off-topic and/or excessively long

See our full comment/user policy/agreement.


  1. Shaka Zulu
    November 22, 2023

    They forgot to count those ministers of government.

  2. Ibo France
    November 22, 2023

    Beef, mutton, turkey, chicken, saltfish, pork have become too expensive for the poor, unemployed man to purchase from the supermarkets. Mountain Chicken is free. There goes the reason for the depletion to near extinction of this indigenous delicacy, the Mountain Chicken.

    The economic hardship faced by tens of thousands of Dominicans is a serious threat to the continued existence of other indigenous animals like the agouti, and very possibly, the national bird.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5
  3. Mash
    November 22, 2023

    No surprise the Chinese are here, and law enforcement are not enforcing the hunting seasons when comes to the Chinese. On the other hand, the number of yard/neighborhood fowls in most villages which are known to be sleeping on trees have been drastically reduced. In one village I overheard folks were blaming the Haitians for stealing those fowls. Hey! People have to eat!

    When all these foreigners disembarked on Dominica with no jobs and no money, my belief is that, they won’t steal. Dominica is being sucked to the bone. There are more people squatting and picking food in garbage bin in Dominica more than any other times in history. It’s coming people, it’s coming. The inevitable is coming. So the mountain chicken depletion is just a drop in the buck. How many Dominicans still believe we have “366” Rivers? And how much attention is being paid to this vital resource on which our life and survival depends? Let’s attend to water instead of kwapo.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
  4. Bowtia
    November 21, 2023

    Great Job guys. We are supportive of any actions which will see to the increased and protective initiatives of our national treasure.
    We as a people out to show more appreciation for the hard and committed work of these decated scientice.
    We want to see our mountain chicken bounce back.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

:) :-D :wink: :( 8-O :lol: :-| :cry: 8) :-? :-P :-x :?: :oops: :twisted: :mrgreen: more »

 characters available