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Leap to it for frogs this Labour Weekend

Auckland City Council

Media release

16 October 2008

Leap to it for frogs this Labour Weekend

The Cadbury Freddo Frog Roadshow is at Auckland Zoo this Labour Weekend, so both grown-ups and littlies can leap in and learn all about New Zealand’s four endangered species of native frogs, and how to help save them.

The roadshow’s native forest-themed Freddo Grove will be open every day from Thursday 23 October to Monday 27 October (10.30am to 1.30pm), with plenty of fun activities to get Kiwis excited about these unique amphibians in this, the international Year of the Frog.

Every visitor to the Freddo Frog Roadshow will receive an educational booklet and have the chance to meet Freddo. There’ll be the opportunity to chat with a frog expert zookeeper from 10.30am to 11.00am, get along to the frog story-telling session (12.00 to 12.30pm), explore interactive displays like the touch-post and listening station, and play games such as leap frog.

Zoo visitors can also check out live frogs and other fascinating amphibians like the Japanese fire-bellied newt at the zoo’s rainforest-themed classroom, Rakau, from 10.30am to 1.30pm.

The zoo’s Native Frog Research Centre – a captive breeding, research and advocacy facility for New Zealand’s native Archey’s frog is also worth seeing. While visitors cannot go inside, its external area features extensive displays and a special video about our native frogs.

Over a third of the world’s 6,300 amphibian species are now threatened with extinction after thriving for over 360 million years. This is due to the deadly disease amphibian chytrid fungus, habitat loss, pollution, introduced, introduced species and climate change.

“New Zealand’s Archey’s frog is the most critically endangered and evolutionarily distinct frog in the world, and our Hamilton’s, Maud Island and Hochstetter’s frogs all fall within the top 60 most threatened amphibians,” says the zoo’s New Zealand fauna team leader, Andrew Nelson.

“We hope lots of people will get along to the Freddo roadshow to discover more about these incredible vertebrates that play such a vital role in keeping our eco-systems healthy, but are sadly in such big trouble worldwide.”

For more information about the Year of the Frog and frog conservation at Auckland Zoo, visit www.aucklandzoo.co.nz. Visit www.nzfrogs.co,nz www.edgeofexistence.org and www.amphibianark.org.

ENDS


Notes to the editor

NZ endemic frogs (Leiopelmatidae): distinguishing features

The four surviving species of New Zealand frog are found only in New Zealand. They are Archey’s frog, Hochstetter’s frog, Hamilton’s frog, and the Maud Island frog. Regarded as “living fossils”, they are very similar to frog fossils found in Queensland, Australia, from the late Jurassic period around 150 million years ago. They:

• Have no external eardrum, and round (not slit) eyes

• Don’t croak regularly.

• Don’t have a tadpole stage. Instead, the embryo develops inside an egg, and then hatches as an almost fully formed frog). Young are cared for by parents – in the case of Archey’s, the male carries his young offspring around on his back.

• Have a very primitive feature retained by Leiopelma frogs is their tail-wagging muscles (known scientifically as the caudalipuboischiotibialis muscles), although they no longer have a tail to wag. Other unique or unusual features of these frogs include the presence of elongate pieces of cartilage in the muscles of the abdomen (also called “inscriptional ribs”).


Archey’s frog (Leipelma archeyi)

Size: 37mm – the smallest of NZ’s four endemic frogs

Age: Over 50 million years

Found: Coromandel, and Whareorino Forest, west of Te Kuiti

Habitat: Misty, moist areas above 400m altitude

Threats: Amphibian chytrid fungus, predators, loss of habit

Status: Nationally critical


Auckland Zoo Native Frog Research Centre

This dedicated facility for the captive breeding, research and advocacy of New Zealand native frogs, opened in late 2004. It is currently home to a population of the critically endangered Archey’s frog. A quarantine facility, it replicates the Archey’s moist, mist, cool, high altitude forest habitat. (Archey’s frog is found in just two sites in the North Island – in the Coromandel and the Whareorino Forest, west of Te Kuiti).

The Zoo’s New Zealand Fauna team and veterinary staff work closely with the Department of Conservation (DOC) Native Frog Recovery Group in the conservation of this slow-breeding species. A number of clutches (including some fertile eggs) have been laid in the last several years. For the first time, in December 2007, a froglet successfully hatched.

“While this little one only survived a short time, this is a great achievement, and illustrates that these frogs are a happy breed, and can breed,” says NZ Fauna team leader, Andrew Nelson.

Research

Auckland Zoo’s first veterinary resident in conservation medicine, Dr Stephanie Shaw, has been awarded an international research award to progress her Hochstetter’s frog (Leiopelma hochstetteri) project – mapping the national distribution of the disease, amphibian chytrid fungus. Such work for this endangered endemic frog species has not been undertaken before. The Australasian Annual Research Student Award 2007 is awarded by the Australian chapter of the American-based global organisation, the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA).

As part of her PhD topic, the ecology of disease in New Zealand native frogs, Dr Shaw is also mapping the national distribution of amphibian chytrid fungus in New Zealand’s other three endemic frog species – Archey’s frog, Maud Island frog, and Hamilton’s frog.

ABOUT AUCKLAND ZOO

Auckland Zoo is an enterprise of Auckland City Council. It is home to the largest collection of native and exotic wildlife species in New Zealand (over 1300 animals and 179 species) and attracts over half a million visitors annually. It is becoming increasingly well known nationally and internationally through the award-winning television programme, 'The Zoo'. At the heart of all Auckland Zoo's work and activities is its mission: "To focus the Zoo’s resources to benefit conservation and provide exciting visitor experiences which inspire and empower people to take positive action for wildlife and the environment". Auckland Zoo is a member of both the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks & Aquaria (ARAZPA) and the World Association of Zoos & Aquariums (WAZA).


ENDS

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