Archey’s frog (Leiopelma archeyi) is New Zealands smallest native frog.
The species is categorised as Nationally Vulnerable under the New Zealand Threat Classification System and as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Because populations are rapidly declining, the species is at significant risk of imminent extinction.
Archey’s frogs are now only found in three North Island locations: Coromandel Peninsula, Whareorino Forest and Pureora (Pukeokahu).
The Pureora population was translocated by the Department of Conservation in 2006, with a top up in 2016.
They have been establishing well, helped by DOC’s constant predator control and yearly frog monitoring.
I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with the dedicated DOC and Auckland Zoo team members to help with their 2019 frog monitoring.
Spot the frog
With mottled skin colours of green, brown,orange and red, they are masters at blending in with their surroundings, they are also very small and come out at night time to feed, making them incredibly hard to locate.
Archeys frogs do not croak and sit incredibly still when there is a predator in the vicinity, so locating them visually under torch light is the only way.
The monitoring team work through a grid pattern, with ground level searching through leaf matter, ferns, moss and in and around plants and fallen trees.
Once a frog is located, it is carefully placed in a bag for transporting to a shed a few metres away where they will be measured, photographed and weighed before being returned to the exact location they were found. Details of the location found is noted down to the centimeter so as they can be returned to the exact same spot.
The photo to the left shows the variation in size, from a small baby frog through to an adult.
To give you an idea of how small these little gems are, on this particular night:
Length – 10 millimetres
Weight – 0.14grams
Length – 31 millimetres
Weight – 4.81grams
Archey’s frogs are one of the world’s rarest and most endangered amphibians. This species, along with others in the family, have changed little over the past 200 million years, and therefore they represent “living fossils”.
The data collected from this monitoring will identify individual frogs, helping to monitor and better understand what is leading to the species’ decline.
Auckland Zoo also have a captive programme dedicated to developing captive breeding techniques and this along with the hard work from all the dedicated DOC team members in predator control and monitoring will hopefully prevent this species from becoming another extinction statistic.
This was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. I am in awe and very grateful of the hard work and dedication from this team that worked well in to the wee small hours each night to ensure that these little ‘modern-day dinosaurs’ have a chance at survival.
reference material from DOC, Wikipedia & Auckland Zoo