10 June 2021
Hochstetter’s frogs (Leiopelma hochstetteri) were first discovered at Maungatautari in 2004 and to date we are the only fenced Ecosanctuary to contain this rare and declining species. Since 2009 the team at Ecoquest has been conducting a triennial survey in several permanent transects to monitor the population over time, with all transects split between two visits (April and November). After a rapid increase in numbers of frogs after pests were eradicated, the population seems to have been more stable in the past two surveys (2015, 2018).
Normally Ecoquest utilises the survey as a training exercise for their students, but due to Covid19 their cohort of international students have been unable to come to New Zealand. This left a severe shortfall in surveyors, so this year Ecoquest requested our assistance – for which we leapt (pun intended) at the chance to be more involved! With a roster of SMM natural heritage staff and volunteers, Waikato DOC staff and Ecoquest staff we were able to make up enough people for teams of 7+ people each day for a total of 5 days survey effort. The survey itself was preceded by a training session to ensure we understood the methodology before heading out to the transect sites. The survey was led by Ecoquest ecologist Ramon Balderas and we were delighted to hear him report that a total of 75 frogs were detected over the survey which is an increase over the past survey, including (possibly) the largest Hochstetter’s ever to be recorded! It was luck of the draw who found frogs each day, but those lucky ones were thrilled to see this small and cryptic endemic species in its natural habitat. A full report will be sent from Ecoquest in due course which we look forward to receiving. A huge thanks once again to all the volunteers and staff who helped to achieve another successful survey at Sanctuary Mountain this year.