Early this morning 293 critically endangered Northern Corroboree Frog tadpoles left Taronga Zoo’s amphibian conservation facility on a rescue mission.
The tadpoles, bred at Taronga and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in a joint project with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, will boost frog numbers in the wild. The Zoo and OEH have already released 780 tadpoles and eggs previously.
Senior Taronga Herpetofauna keeper, Michael McFadden, said: “We’ll release these tadpoles into selected bogs and swampy spots and monitor their progress. Later this year we’re also going to release about 200 adult and juvenile frogs in the Brindabellas.”
The release site is about four hours southwest of Sydney in the Brindabella ranges on Canberra’s outskirts, one of three important populations and with less than 100 frogs remaining.
Northern Corroboree Frogs are an iconic frog with bright splashes of colour on their tiny, dark bodies. They and other alpine frog species in Australia have been hard hit by the invasive chytrid fungus. Their breeding sites are also disturbed by feral pigs and wild horses.
The Taronga breeding program along with others for the Southern Corroboree Frog and the Yellow-spotted Bell Frog, thought to be extinct until recently, provide critical insurance for the species’ survival.
OEH staff are managing the wild populations and coordinate the release of the animals bred at the Zoo.
The releases of frogs across different developmental stages will help scientists determine the best strategy to build population numbers so that disease resistance can develop to help them survive the chytrid fungus in the wild. The fungus affects the frogs’ skin preventing them taking in water and important salts.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has called chytrid the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates and although Habitat Loss is the greatest threat, chytrid has caused the extinction of many species very quickly.