Mountain chicken from the menu in Dominica while stocks last.

Image: Courtesy of the Government of Dominica. The coat of arms of the country includes a frog on the upper right side of the shield.

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A giant frog that was traditionally a significant part of the cuisine of the Caribbean island of Dominica was on the brink of extinction, but now persistent efforts by frog enthusiasts are beginning to show some success in saving the species for local tables.

The mountain chicken frog, officially known by its Latin name Leptodactylus fallax, was once considered the unofficial national dish of Dominica, a memory that is now fading among the younger population, according to locals.

„When I cook it, I cut it up and put it in broth,” Alan Mello told the BBC as he sold fruit and vegetables in Dominica’s capital Roseau.

According to Mr Mello, who is now in his 70s, it tasted „just like chicken” and believes the nutrients in the mountain hen frog contributed to his good health.

Another local name for the mountain fowl is “crabat” (the French word for toad), a reminder of Dominica’s past as a French colony.

There were different ways to cook the four-legged creature. Some people like to add it to a stew while others enjoy deep fried golden brown crunchy frog.

The mega-frog’s historical significance is highlighted by its presence in the Dominguez national coat of arms.

However, no one visiting a restaurant on an Eastern Caribbean island now or in the past two decades has ever heard of mountain chicken frog as a delicacy.

Kenasher Walmond, who works at a cafe near the seaport in Roseau, says he has never eaten mountain chicken.

According to experts, a major cause of the frog’s disappearance from dining room tables and its declining popularity among younger people is an infectious amphibian disease called chytridiomycosis.

„We’ve lost almost 90% of the mountain grouse population in Dominica in a year and a half,” said Jeanelle Brisbane, a wildlife ecologist in Dominica. BBC News.

„This is one of the fastest waterfall declines recorded in our history.” It is now included in the endangered frog list.

According to the Zoological Society of London, the frog is one of the largest in the world and can grow up to 2.2lb in weight, but it’s no match for the deadly microscopic fungus.

According to researchers, the chytrid fungus began wreaking havoc in Dominica in 2002.

The frog even hangs out on Montserrat, another Caribbean island further north. But fortunately some frogs were kept in captive breeding programs in Montserrat before they disappeared completely.

In Dominica, before the fungus hit, harvesting frogs from the wild was a booming business, with studies finding that up to 36,000 frogs were poached each year.

Several partners, including ZSL and Dominica’s Forestry Division, have come together as part of the mountain chicken rescue project.

During a census last year in parts of the island where the frog was known to live, only 21 frogs were found alive in the wild.

„They are one of the island’s apex predators, so losing them has potential ripple effects in terms of pest control,” says Benjamin Tapley, curator of herpetology at ZSL.

In March, ZSL announced the appearance of six mountain chicken frogs at London Zoo, the first time in five years that two frogs brought from Montserrat had been successfully reared.

It is believed that captive mountain hen frogs will continue to actively participate in the breeding program once they are freed from the cooking pot.

Sources: BBC,

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