From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published June 1, 2010 09:14 AM

World's 'number one frog' faces extinction from New Zealand government

Archey's frog is a survivor: virtually unchanged evolutionarily for 150 million years, the species has survived the comet that decimated the dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and the splitting of continents. Seventy million years ago New Zealand broke away from Australia, essentially isolating Archey's frog and its relatives from all predatory mammals. Yet, if the New Zealand government has its way this species may not survive the century, let alone the next few decades.


The New Zealand government has put forward a controversial proposal to begin opening three of the nation's protected areas to mining: Great Barrier Island, Paparoa National Park, and Coromandel Peninsula where the last populations of Archey's frogs live. According to critics, the government's proposal could push Archey's frog toward extinction, while negatively impacting a number of other endangered species, beloved wild lands, and a nation driven by tourism.

The Jurassic Frog

The conservation organization EDGE considers the Archey's frog to be a truly one-of-a-kind species. In fact, it is the organization's top amphibian.

"Archey’s New Zealand frog is an incredibly special animal and an asset to global biodiversity. It is the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered [EDGE] amphibian out of more than 6,500 species—or 'Number 1 EDGE Amphibian' for short," explains Helen Meredith, EDGE's Amphibian coordinator. "Archey’s frog is almost indistinguishable from the fossilized remains of frogs that lived 150 million years ago... These frogs were around before the Atlantic Ocean existed, and before the planet’s highest mountain range—the Himalayas—had even started to form."

New Zealand government: open protected areas for mining

Named as EDGE's number one amphibian means that Archey's frog is not only an evolutionary treasure—representing the ancient origin of all modern frogs —but is also on the edge of extinction. Struck by disease, alien predators, and climate change the IUCN Red List currently classifies the frog as Critically Endangered. Still the species survives—if not thrives; but conservationists are deeply concerned that the New Zealand government's plans to open up three protected areas, all classified as Schedule Four, to mining would further imperil Archey's frog as well as other endangered flora and fauna.

According to Nicola Vallance—an advocate with the local conservation organization Forest and Bird—New Zealand's designation of Schedule Four "identifies conservation land, which due to its high conservation values, should be excluded from the possibility of being mined. This land includes national parks, nature reserves and scientific reserves—land considered to be core conservation land. About 40 percent of the conservation estate (13 percent of New Zealand’s landmass) is in Schedule Four."

Bishop, one of the world's foremost experts on Archey's frogs, is unequivocal on how the mining will impact the Critically Endangered frog: "the mining has the potential to push Archey’s over the edge and could drive them to extinction. They have already suffered a dramatic decline to less than 20 percent of their former distribution probably through disease, but if we destroy their habitat too there is no way they will be able to recover."

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