The school children of Montserrat love the mountain chicken frogs, and over the years we’ve had lots of fun together learning about these funky frogs at school presentations, events and workshops. There’s even been a mountain chicken calypso! The mountain chicken frog is threatened by the deadly chytrid fungus, and populations have collapsed in Dominica and in Montserrat, the only two places in the world where these giant frogs exist in the wild. Conservation efforts have been underway for many years, focussing on captive breeding of mountain chickens and in situ research into novel management techniques. This year, we wanted to celebrate these amazing frogs and the enthusiasm with which the younger generations have embraced them here in Montserrat, by holding a poetry competition. The competition was launched at the first annual Mountain Chicken Day held in Montserrat in September this year. We invited all the schools on island to take part, and the entries were split into categories by age. The children were encouraged to write about the mountain chicken frog, its cultural significance, its current plight, and the importance of saving these frogs from extinction.
At the end of October, when the time came to collect the poems from the schools, we were amazed at the number of entries – 108 poems were submitted to the competition! On an island with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, this is big! The quality of the poems was also pretty astonishing. It seems the children of Montserrat really know their mountain chickens, and want to see them saved. Our panel of judges had a hard time choosing the winners. In the end, decisions had to be made and the winning poems demonstrated artistic talent as well as encapsulated an important conservation message. 12-year old Josiah Persaud’s poem My Side really stood out and he was chosen as the winner of the 10-13 year olds category. Eight-year old Tackera Anderson’s Oh Mountain Chicken won the 6-9 year olds category.
My Side (The Mountain Chicken Poem) By Josiah Persaud
?Yes it’s me
Poor me, help me
You might say I’m good to eat
But I say feed me scorpions and centipedes
Mosquitoes and mice
To me are very nice
You seek me and can’t find me
But look for me at ghauts, pools, forests of trees
At dusk just when there is light
See me you will for the time is just right
Poor me, sick me
My legs tremble
I am becoming feeble
Red toes, white belly
Oh my I am unhealthy
Under my eyes a white line
Signals I am not fine
Oh this Chytrid fungus
Makes life for me very dangerous
Save me, protect me
Please don’t let me die, this is my plea
I contribute to your ecosystem can’t you see
So every boy, girl and man
Hurry! Hurry! Come up with a plan
Yes it’s me, poor me
Tackera Anderson reading out her winning poem
The Mountain Chicken Poetry Competition coincided with the Alliouagana Festival of the Word, a literary festival held each year in Montserrat to promote local artists and literature. The winners and two runners-up in both categories were invited to the closing ceremony of the festival, where we held an awards ceremony and gave out prizes to them all. Tackera and Josiah read their poems on stage – the audience was moved, and so were we! Everyone present was impressed by the large number of entries we had received, and the children were justifiably proud of their achievement. We were so impressed by the standard of the entries that we are now looking into publishing them all in a Mountain Chicken Poetry Book.
The mountain chicken partnership will continue the efforts to save this iconic species from extinction – hopefully the children of Montserrat will continue to appreciate these frogs for generations to come, and one day will have the opportunity once more to go look for them in the ghauts, pools, forests of trees, at dusk just when there is light… and see them, for they are alright!