A rare type of frog that is critically endangered has, for the first time, been successfully bred at the Auckland Zoo.

The Archey's Frog, native to New Zealand, is the world's most evolutionarily distinct amphibian.

In December, seven frogs were hatched at the Auckland Zoo and staff say they are thriving.

Auckland Zoo NZ Fauna curator Richard Gibson said it was a thrill to come this far, given that the frogs have been bred before elsewhere, but did not survive.


"It's a massive step forward to finally breed these enigmatic and extremely sensitive little frogs after almost eight years," Mr Gibson said.

Auckland Zoo's seven baby frogs are now just a half centimetre long.

They are on a diet of tiny invertebrates and are not on display to the public.

However, adult Archey's Frogs will soon be seen at the Zoo's popular Te Wao Nui night forest habitat area.

Mr Gibson said the further understanding of the frog's reproductive biology would help make sure it was given a solid chance of surviving in the wild one day.

"It's battling the combined threats of habitat disturbance, introduced predators, disease and climate change," he said.

The Archey's Frog has been around for more than 50 million years.

They are described as "living fossils".

Unlike other types of frogs - which develop into a tadpole before forming fully - the Archey's Frog species grows inside the egg before hatching into a fully formed frog.

News of Auckland Zoo's success has been met with excitement by overseas experts, too.

International group Amphibian Ark, which aims to conserve amphibians in the wild, said: "Conserving any species usually requires a whole range of actions and captive breeding is increasingly a requirement for many threatened amphibians. Auckland Zoo's recent success with Archey's Frog is exciting news and represents an important breakthrough."

* View photos of the Archey frog here.