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Ancient Amphibians Kickstart Key Conservation Project At Orana

Orana Wildlife Park is excited to welcome a brand new species to the zoo – Maud Island frogs. This is the first time Orana has ever held a native frog. Six male and eleven female frogs, ranging from 18 to 25 years of age, have moved to a purpose-designed conservation facility at Orana.

The little treasures, one of the longest lived frogs in the world (more than 45 years in the wild), were transferred in support of the Department of Conservation’s Native Frog Recovery Group plans. The ultimate aim is to breed these remarkable and cryptic animals in captivity, which would be a rare feat.

Native Fauna Manager, Catherine Roughton, says her team is incredibly excited to welcome the 5cm frogs – NZ’s largest frog: “This is really exciting for our whole team. The frogs are so cool - they are very cute with big dark eyes. We are excited to join another breeding programme for a key native species. The team are committed to raising awareness on these treasured creatures whilst attempting to breed them.”

Professor Phil Bishop, New Zealand’s preeminent native frog researcher, transported the frogs from University of Otago to Orana: “this is a really big deal for Orana and for New Zealand frog conservation. Scientifically Maud Island Frogs are genetically indistinguishable from Hamilton’s Frog (which number less than 300 and are restricted to one island in Cook Strait). Breeding Maud Island Frogs in captivity would make a significant contribution to native frog conservation and may even enable Hamilton’s Frog to be secured in captivity too.”

New Zealand’s remaining native frog species belong to an ancient and primitive group and are all under threat. They are very special animals with few relatives and considered evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered. They have remained virtually unchanged since they crawled around the toes of the dinosaurs!” adds Dr Bishop.

The wild population of Maud Island Frogs is around 30,000. The species remains at extreme risk due to predation, habitat destruction, disease and climate change especially since they are restricted to just four small islands.

“Our frog habitat is one of the most technically challenging projects we have ever completed. Our team consulted extensively with Professor Bishop and our zoo partners to ensure we completed a state of the art habitat; it is designed to simulate the climate of Maud Island throughout the year” adds Catherine.

“A range of interesting exotic amphibians, housed in completely separate enclosures, will also be added to the facility. Right now, we are delighted to offer visitors the chance to see and learn about Maud Island Frogs. It is an absolute privilege for us to have such precious native fauna in our care”, concludes Catherine.

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