7 March 2024

Critically Endangered mountain chicken froglets hop into the world in time for Mother’s Day 

We're celebrating a conservation success after two Critically Endangered Mountain chicken frogs bred for the first time in five years in their brand-new custom-built home. 

Metamorphosing just in time for Mother’s Day, the six froglets are offspring from a new pair who recently moved into the Zoo’s newest experience - the Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians

Mountain chicken frogs

Size of mountain chicken frogs

The huge frogs (tipping the scales at 360g, almost as much as a can of soup) arrived in their bespoke home which will open to visitors this Easter, and immediately got to work prepping for parenthood, with the huge male quickly digging a ‘bowl’ in the underground clay lined nesting chambers, showing off his skills to his new mate.  

Mountain chicken frogs at London Zoo

Once enticed into the nest, the pair begins the hard work of prepping to welcome their offspring – producing a foam nest to lay their eggs into. The tadpoles develop in the foam nest and, uniquely, the mother lays thousands of unfertilised eggs for her offspring to feed on every one-to-seven days, ensuring that the young animals have the best start to life. The mothers may feed the tadpoles in the nest 10-13 times during their development, meaning she may produce an estimated 10,000-25,000 eggs.  

Mountain chicken frog tadpole in a petri dish

Our Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians, Ben Tapley said; “We are delighted at how quickly the mountain chicken frog colony have settled into their new home. Soon after they arrived, we spotted the female frog guarding her foam nest. 

“Mountain chicken frogs are incredible parents. The mother regularly visits the nest to lay unfertile eggs, which the growing brood will feed on, she also guards her nests, puffing up and using her body to defend her young from anything that gets a little too close.” 

Mountain chicken frog in a persons hand

The six, inch-long froglets, have some growing to do to reach the size of the enormous adults, and will play a key role in bringing this species back from the brink of extinction – a recent intensive survey to find the frogs in Dominica identified just 21 individual mountain chicken frogs.  

Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians - Mountain chicken habitat

The frogs were once widespread across the Caribbean until a killer fungus was introduced to their remaining habitat on the islands of Montserrat and Dominica. A mass mortality event in the early 2000s was discovered - by a team including a ZSL scientist - to have been caused by chytrid fungus, which wiped out more than 90% of their population.  

In 2009, our conservationists along with other European zoos airlifted the last few mountain chicken frogs to safety in a last-ditch attempt to save the species from extinction, a dedicated facility was built and a coordinated EAZA breeding programme was established for the species. Visitors will come nose-to-nose with one of the world’s largest and most threatened frogs – as the family of Critically Endangered mountain chicken frogs at the Zoo will be visible for the first time.  

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If you treat your herd to a family membership, you’ll have already got your money’s worth around your second visit*, and made tons of new memories too!

Animals at the Secret Life

  • Mangshan pit viper with forked tongue out
    Protobothrops mangshanensis

    Mangshan pit viper

    Mangshan pit vipers are one of the rarest of all snakes and were only identified by the scientific world in 1990.

  • Chinese giant salamander being held during a health check at London Zoo
    Andrias davidianus

    Chinese giant salamander

    Chinese giant salamanders are the world's biggest amphibian, at full size they are around the size of a fully grown man at 1.8m in length.  

  • Big-headed turtle, it has a proportionally huge head and a long tail, and is a reddish-brown in appearance.
    Platysternon megacephalum

    Big-headed turtle

    This turtle’s head is so big it can’t be withdrawn inside its shell. Instead, the top and sides of its head are covered with a large bony ‘roof’ that acts like armour. 

  • Female Lake Oku frog
    Xenopus longipes

    Lake Oku clawed frog

    Lake Oku frogs are only found in one tiny lake in Cameroon, and we were the first to ever successfully breed this critically endangered species.

  • Philippine Crocodile at London Zoo
    Crocodylus mindorensis

    Philippine crocodile

    There are one only around 120 left in the wild, but we are working to recover Philippine crocodiles at the Zoo and in the field.

  • Anam leaf turtle at London Zoo
    Mauremys annamensis

    Annam leaf turtle

    The anam leaf turtle is one of the most endangered reptiles on earth, there are only around 50 remaining individuals in the wild. Little is known about them, but we are working to better understand the species.

*Based on the average zoo admission prices for one or two adults with two children in relation to the family membership Direct Debit fee.