Each morning at Taronga, the first animals I check are our most critically endangered frogs, firstly to maintain the vital quarantine of these animals so later we can return their offspring to the wild.
Today, my rounds included that of the Southern Corroboree Frog, a species that was down to just 17 males in the wild last season, and the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog, a species thought to have been extinct for 30 years until a small population was discovered in 2009.
At the Corroboree Frog breeding facility I am immediately greeted by the calling of at least a dozen male frogs from their nests in the sphagnum moss in their breeding tanks. They’re each hoping that their call will lure a female to breed with them. The sound is especially overwhelming as there may be more males calling from these seven breeding tanks than there are calling in the wild. In just a few weeks, we’ll inspect the nests and hope to find hundreds of fertile eggs, each with a clearly defined tadpole inside each one.
It’s a nervous wait as the future of this species very much depends on the success of our breeding program.
As today is a feeding day, I’ve brought a couple of small tubs with me, each containing thousands of small, ant-sized, hatchling crickets dusted with calcium and multivitamins to ensure these precious frogs are each receiving a well supplemented diet. Using a small plastic spoon, I dish a small portion of crickets into each of the miniature frog habitats The Corroboree Frogs immediately gather around their piles of moving crickets, lunging forward and grabbing the insects with their tongues as they move past. Once the feeding is complete, I check the timers on the automatic spray systems, cast a final eye over the frogs and write a few small notes in the diary. Then it is off to check on the Bell Frogs.
The scene in the Yellow-spotted Bell Frogs’ room is quite different. There is the sound of water filters and the sight of a large,
impressive frog that was lost to the planet for decades. As I’m carrying a bag of large crickets, the eleven frogs keep a close eye on me as I approach. As I toss the crickets into the enclosures, the frogs launch at them, using their front legs to force them inside their mouths. As there is a chance they may breed this season, I check that all systems are in place and working. This includes checking the artificial rain systems, reviewing the daily temperature charts and ensuring that the call playback machine is playing the sound of a calling male at intervals throughout the night. It’s a version of bell frog “Barry White” to get the frogs into the mating mood. Once these checks are complete, this frog round is done for the day and it is time to enter “Reptile World” to work with animals of the scaly kind.
Reptile Supervisor, Michael