Home > News > Archive > 29th November 2004

First new find of rare native frogs in a decade

By Julie Milne of
www.maungatrust.org

Maungatautari Ecological Island TrustThe first new find of the endangered Hochstetter’s frog in a decade has turned up eleven surviving in a fragile, rocky area on Maungatautari – the site of the largest restoration project in New Zealand involving the total eradication of all pests.

Head of DOC’s Frog Recovery Programme Dr Avi Holzapfel said that to “find any new population of Hochstetter’s was very exciting, and to find Hochstetter’s at Maungatautari, where they will eventually be protected, is just a dream come true.”

Hochstetter’s frogDr Holzapfel believes that the Maungatautari Hochstetter’s are “very likely to be a distinct population, due to their long isolation from other Hochstetter’s.” Results from genetic testing should confirm this early 2005.

Researchers stumbled across a male Hochstetter’s frog while undertaking invertebrate sampling. The site was immediately surveyed and another ten, including young frogs which would have hatched this year, were found.

Areas with a similar habitat, on Maungatautari, are currently being inspected but so far no more Hochstetter’s’ have been located.

Chief Executive of the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust, Jim Mylchreest, said that the “Hochstetter’s frogs had been on the list’ of possible re-introductions but it is wonderful that we have our own resident population which has survived on the mountain. The race is now on to erect the pest-proof fence around the whole mountain and protect these threatened frogs and any other species that may be surviving in small numbers.

The Maungatautari restoration plan involves encircling the 3400 hectares of bush with a pest-proof fence and bringing back the suite of species that once lived there such as the kiwi, kokako, kakariki, tuatara and kaka.

Sufficient funding, $4.5million of the required $14million to fence Maungatautari, has already been raised enabling the pest-proof fence to be erected around two enclosures as mini examples of the whole project.

Unfortunately the Hochstetter’s frogs were found beyond the safety of the enclosures.

At only 48 mm long, about the length of a female adult little finger, well camouflaged and nocturnal in nature they are particularly hard to find.

New Zealand's native frogs have a comparatively slow reproductive rate but are long lived, with one female being studied for 33 years They have several unique features which make them very different from frogs elsewhere in the world. Originally there were seven species of native frog in New Zealand, now there are only four.

Unlike most frogs New Zealand frogs don't croak, have no external eardrum and have round pupils eyes. They don't have a free-swimming tadpole stage. The embryo develops inside an egg, and then hatches as an almost fully-formed frog. The young of most species are cared for by their parents.