Maud Island frog

The longest lived wild frogs in the world, this isn't your average frog!

Name: Maud Island frog

Scientific name: Leiopelma pakeka

NZ Status: Endemic

Conservation Status (NZTCS): Vulnerable

Found: Maud Island, 3 other off shore islands and ZEALANDIA

Threats: Disease and predation

Did you know? Maud Island frogs like other NZ frogs, don't have a tadpole phase. Instead they develop inside the egg and hatch as a fully formed 'froglet'.

Maud Island frog
Photo Credit: Chris Helliwell

The Maud Isand frog, one of 4 last surviving endemic New Zealand frogs left of the ancient family of Leiopelma. It's also the biggest of the surviving New Zealand frogs.

These tiny dark brown frogs growing up to 50mm, are nocturnal and are rarely seen in the day being sheltered under large rocks, crevices or within boulder piles. They are most active during warm humid nights and not as much on full moons. As ambush predators, they like to sit and wait till insects come their way to catch them with their mouths. With no vocal sacs, the Maud Island frog doesn't croak but at most will very rarely make a squeak sound when threatened. Despite not having ear drums and a tail, the frog still has the set of muscles used for tail-wagging. Without a voice or a tail to attract mates, these frogs send out chemical signals to each other. With a average life span of 33 years they rarely travel, their lifetime range around 30 squared meters.

Having adapted to life without mammals, when faced with threats they 'freeze' and rely on their appearance to avoid predators. This put them at a huge risk to mammalian predators and with disease such as Zoospores and Chytrid which lead to their once ambundant numbers throughout New Zealand to being rediscovered in the 1940s surviving only on Maud Island, a mammal free island. Despite having a population of 40,000 (2013) on the island, there are risks relying on a single population incase of a natural disaster or a disease to could easily wipe out the population.

With successful translocations to Motuara Island in 1997 and less successful translocation to Long Island due to poor habitat and predation by kiwis, 60 Maud Island frogs were first transferred to ZEALANDIA in 2006 and with another 101 in 2012. This is a huge step for Maud Island frogs as this was the 1st re-introduction of a native frog back to mainland and the first to co-exsist with mice. With the release of 101 frogs outside the enclosures in 2012, 86% were recaptured at least once after release showing that kiwis and mice have no significant negative impact on frogs. Breeding has occured successfully between the 3 enclosures that the other Maud Island frogs were kept in ZEALANDIA and outside the enclosures.

 

Look for them: Being night creatures, you can look in their enclosures on Te Māhanga Track in day but you won't have much luck finding them. Check them out on the ZEALANDIA By Night tours when they're active.