2008 Hamilton's Frog
With an estimated 300 adults living in the wild, the Hamilton’s frog (Leiopelma hamiltoni) is New Zealand’s rarest native frog and possibly the world’s!
2008 was the International Year of the Frog. Organisations from all over the world got together to do their bit to increase the awareness of the need to protect our amphibians – natural indicators of the quality of our environment.
The global amphibian crisis is the largest mass extinction since the age of the dinosaurs, with more than one third of the world’s 6,300 frog species threatened with extinction. Amphibians have been around for nearly 360 million years, but are severely affected by habitat loss, climate change, pollution and pesticides, introduced species, and over-collection for food and pets. Habitat destruction is the major threat; however an immediate cause is a parasitic fungus that is deadly to hundreds of amphibian species called amphibian chytrid. This disease is currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild. It can kill 80% of individual amphibians within months and cause 50% of species to become extinct.
New Zealand's native frog - the Hamilton’s frog - is one of the rarest frogs in the world with a population estimate of about 300 individuals. It is said to descend from one of the most ancient amphibian lineages and still has a tail bone (but no tail) as well as undeveloped vocal and hearing capabilities. It has a number of special features that make them unlike any others in the world; round rather than slit eyes, hatching straight into an almost fully-formed frog instead of tadpoles, no external ear drums, not croaking regularly like most other frogs, and they catch their prey in their mouths rather than with their tongue!
A small frog with a length of up to 43 mm for males and 49 mm for females, it is the male of the species that attends the eggs and hatchlings, which climb onto its back and legs. The Hamilton's frog eats small insects and is found only in the wild on Takapourewa Island (Stephens Island) in the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand. Having adapted to living in rocky surroundings, this frog has almost no webbing on its hind feet.
Still on the ‘critically endangered’ list, the future care of the Hamilton’s frog is in the guiding hands of the local iwi, Ngati Koata (www.koata.iwi.nz) and the Department of Conservation.