Taronga Zoo and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage staff will bring 500 zoo-bred Southern Corroboree Frog eggs back to the wild in the Kosciuszko National Park this month, NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker said today.
Ms Parker said there had been a rapid decline of the tiny but colourful alpine frog and with experts describing the loss of frogs globally as the largest mass extinction since the dinosaur, it was vital zoos and nature organisations rally.
“I am pleased to say that this is happening and with wild numbers so low, the frogs’ future rests with NSW OEH and breeding programs at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo, the Healesville Sanctuary and the Amphibian Research Centre,” Ms Parker said on a visit toTaronga Zoo today.
Ms Parker said the joint Kosciuszko re-introduction project with Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary follows a recent survey by OEH’s Dave Hunter which found only nine male Corroboree frogs calling throughout their historic breeding area. There was just a single nest containing eggs there.
“The Corroboree Frog’s decline had been largely due to the introduced chytrid fungus which cut a swathe through Australian frog populations over three decades ago,” Ms Parker said.
“But the zoos, Healesville and the Amphibian Research Centre are fighting back. We’re hoping to start seeing some improvement in wild numbers from the eggs already released, with 47 zoo-bred eggs going to the wild in 2010, followed by 244 in 2011 and this year, 500 eggs from Taronga and 319 from Melbourne and Healesville.”
Ms Parker said that since the frogs take four years to reach maturity, keepers and parks staff are hoping to see some positive results from the first releases soon.
“The 819 eggs will be placed in several re-introduction sites, which have included chytrid-affected and chytrid-free sites. We’re trying lots of different approaches to overcome the impact of chytrid fungus,” the Minister said.
Taronga and NSW OEH conservation officers now have successful breeding and re-introduction programs for the Southern Corroboree and Northern Corroboree Frogs, the Booroolong Frog and the Green and Gold Bell Frog.
This is as well as a breeding program for the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog, which was previously thought to be extinct.
“Frogs are accurate indicators of environmental health in our waterways,” Ms Parker said.
“The drainage of swamplands which are the lungs of river systems and the impact of chytrid fungus means the removal of a vitally important group of species from the ecosystem.
“Many frogs eat insect pests and in their turn are food for other animals and re-establishing frogs in their former habitats is one of the most important things we can do.
“Local communities can also help by making sure rubbish and other pollutants don’t get into streams and rivers.”
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