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Endangered frog gets a jump-start

Wednesday 27 Feb 2013 8:36 a.m.

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One of the rarest frogs in the world can now be found at Auckland Zoo.

The native Archey's frog is a critically endangered amphibian, but now – for the first time – the species has successfully reproduced in captivity.

They're described as living fossils – the Archey's frog has been around for more than 50 million years. But the archaic species is unlike any other.

"People think of frogs hopping," says zookeeper Richard Gibson. "Well they can hop, but they kind of crash land and their swimming is a bit strange – they don't do the breaststroke like we'd expect, they kick one leg independently which makes them zig-zag across a pool of water, so they're kind of quirky little frogs and very endearing."

After eight years of trying, in December Auckland Zoo finally managed to successfully breed the frogs, much to the excitement of Mr Gibson.

"That first day – we had eggs before – but on that first day where we saw the eggs just starting to develop and the signs of the little embyros was really, really amazing. We really had begun to think we were never going do it, so we were very excited and very, very proud."

Archey's frogs are some of the world's smallest. They start off the size of half a pea, and when they grow up they're about the size of a bottle cap.

In the wild, they can only be found in Whareorino Forest, near King Country, and in the Coromandel Peninsula, and their population is falling rapidly.

"It's really important that we do what we can to conserve what we've got left," says Mr Gibson, "because with predators and the habitat, also the threat of climate change in the future and possible disease threats, they are really facing a host of problems."

Auckland Zoo is constructing a habitat for its new Archey's frogs which is expected to be open to the public by Easter.

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