Giant Ditch Frog

(Leptodactylus fallax)




Facts about this animal

Terrestrial and nocturnal, 16 to 17 cm long, in fact one of the world's largest frogs, with a maximum snout-vent length of 21 cm. Back can be chestnut-brown or spotted and barred. Color becomes more orange-yellow laterally and reaches a pale yellow on the ventral side. Upper tibia may have broad banding. Continuous dorsolateral folds from eye to groin and no breast spines. The initiating male uses a trilling bark call (100-120 calls/min) to attract females to nesting burrows. Nest production begins by the male stimulating the female’s cloaca to encourage fluid excretion. The male will paddle over the female’s cloaca until - after 9-14 hrs. - the foam nest is complete. A “skin” develops over the nest in 24 h. The males and the female guard the nest until the larvae hatch (26 to 43 per nest). Then the female returns to the nest. Tadpoles will immediately orient themselves around her cloaca to feed on emerging trophic eggs. Metamorphosis is complete after 45 days.

Did you know?
that human consumption is one of the main threats for this species? It is called the “Mountain Chicken” for its large size and the fact that it is still heavily exploited for food. It is prized for its meat (both subsistence and commercial tourist use).


Name (Scientific) Leptodactylus fallax
Name (English) Giant Ditch Frog
Name (French) Poulet de montagne
Name (German) Antillen-Ochsenfrosch
Name (Spanish) Pollito de las montañas
Local names Montserrat: Mountain Chicken
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Tim Vickers



Range Dominica, Montserrat (originally also on Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia).
Habitat A relatively low-altitude species, occurring from sea level up to (rarely) 430 m. The species lives in dense secondary vegetation, plantations (Dominica only), ravines, and flooded forest. It hides in burrows during the day in moist forest. It appears as though the animals are associated with certain soil types that allow the digging of nests.
Wild population Population suggested to be as low as 8,000 animals (2004) (Red List IUCN 2012). There is a drastic decline in population - over 80% - over the past 10 years. The giant ditch frog originally inhabited at least the five islands mentioned above in the Lesser Antilles. Due to a combination of hunting, habitat loss and the introduction of alien predators, however, it is now confined to Dominica (where it is still heavily hunted for food) and Montserrat. There are also indications that reproduction has been suppressed in the increasingly toxic, acidified environment, due to the volcanic eruptions. The population of Dominica, where the species was once most abundant, has declined rather catastrophically from 2002 until present, following a major confirmed outbreak of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis. This decline is continuing and appears to have significantly impacted most, if not all, of the population in that country. Indeed this species is facing extinction.
Zoo population 63 specimens reported to ISIS by 12 holdings (2007).

In the Zoo

Giant Ditch Frog


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 45 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Tim Vickers

Why do zoos keep this animal

This once very abundant toad species which was (and still is) collected by the local population for food is now facing extinction, due to overexploitation, habitat destruction and fungal disease. There should be an urgent international conservation program for this toad. In addition its highly fascinating reproductive behavior has a great educational potential and would make it an attractive amphibian to be exhibited.