DR PHIL BISHOP
At the moment, we’ve got very small populations in the wild, and some of them are particularly vulnerable. We might like to think that if we’ve got a population of frogs on Stephens Island, which is the Hamilton’s frog, that’s very safe, and it is very safe from a lot of outside agencies because it is very difficult to get to. However, if a disaster happened on that island like a fire or somehow some stoats got on that island or some rats, then it would wipe out that whole species very quickly. So we need to be able to breed them in captivity so that we have almost like an insurance population – if something happens to the population in the wild, we’ve got some genetic stock that we are breeding up in captivity that we can then repopulate various areas.
At the moment, we haven’t been that successful in breeding them in captivity. Professor Ben Bell at the University of Victoria in Wellington has bred them in enclosures, but nobody has yet actually bred them in the laboratory setting to a successful… From one adult to another adult, that hasn’t occurred yet.
You’ve got to be able to simulate the right conditions so that that frog is as natural as it would be in the wild, so it’s receiving all the right nutrients, it’s receiving the right aesthetic values that it needs, it’s receiving the right amount of exercise, the right amount of socialising – all those things that would cause it to be a very happy healthy breeding animal in the wild would need to be simulated in the lab.
One of the challenges that we face with keeping native frogs in captivity is that they are not like ordinary frogs. Most frogs, if you make it nice, hot and wet and you give them lots of food, they do really well. Well, our native species don’t like it too wet, they don’t like it too dry, they don’t like it too hot, they don’t like it too cold. They are very fussy, and it’s very difficult for us to work out the exact environmental conditions that produce a very healthy frog.
Prof. Ben Bell, Victoria University of Wellington.