The first Booroolong Frogs to be bred in zoos will be released today, only a year after Taronga started a breeding program to save the tiny amphibian.
The critically endangered native species has suffered unprecedented population declines recently, with fewer than 5000 individual Frogs remaining in the wild. The decline has been attributed to water pollution, loss of habitat and use of herbicides and pesticides, as well as chyrtid fungus and climate change.
More than 600 individual frogs will be released today, providing a significant boost to the wild populations of South-Western NSW. The breeding program has been an unprecedented success, starting with only 34 frogs early last year.
Taronga Zoo is also breeding the endangered Corroboree Frog, a colourful native species which has suffered dramatic population decline mainly due to the deadly Chytrid fungus, with only 50 remaining in the Kosciusko National Park.
Chytrid fungus is an infectious disease which attacks frogs in cool mountainous regions. The disease has also caused dramatic decline in frog species from New Zealand, USA, Central America, South America, Spain and Germany and is notoriously difficult to treat.
Taronga Zoo is continuing to conduct field research and breeding to boost Corroboree Frog numbers. However, current environmental threats to the species mean that a release is unlikely until next year at the earliest.
The decline of amphibian species throughout the world is being addressed by this years Australasian Regional Association of Zoos and Aquaria (ARAZPA) conference, held at Taronga Zoo from 10 March, as part of the global Amphibian Ark Program by world zoos and aquariums.
The Conference will focus on the various programs being conducted by zoos, wildlife parks and aquaria to boost wild populations and prevent further decline of frog species during the Year of the Frog, and seek to raise money for new amphibian projects in Australia and Asia
Zoos will discuss current conservation programs and coordinated planning to save frog species. Members will also be asked to contribute to Amphibian Ark.
The first Malaysian Amphibian Workshop was held last month as part of Amphibian Arks global amphibian conservation strategy.
Taronga Zoo Amphibian Keeper, Michael McFadden, made a presentation to 50 representatives from South East Asian zoos at the conference hosted by Zoo Negara and Amphibian Ark in Kuala Lumpur. Michael works on Australian conservation projects at Taronga for Corroboree and Booroolong Frogs.
He said: "The workshop was an important step in the critical global fight for frog species. I focussed on teaching husbandry techniques such as feeding, breeding, sexing and identifying individuals and quarantine procedures."
"All frog species require expert care because they breathe through their skin and are very sensitive to light, heat, water quality and pollutants in the air", Michael said. "By sharing our knowledge about caring for frogs, zoos in South-East Asia can build their expertise to help the many vulnerable species in the region."
Approximately 165 of the world's known amphibian species may already be extinct and another third are classified as threatened. Taronga Zoo has an outstanding record with amphibian conservation, rehabilitaion, research and breeding programs. These include a recovery program for the Green and Golden Bell Frog, a Sydney Basin frog on the brink of extinction, continuing the Zoo's vital public education programs whilst Taronga Zoo's Wildlife Clinic cares for a range of frog species annually.
Taronga and Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year.
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