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Building on efforts to save Corroboree Frogs in Kosciuszko National Park

Media release: 30 April 2014

As part of the Saving our Species program to save Southern Corroboree Frogs from extinction, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) released approximately 150 captive-bred eggs into a new field enclosure this week.

Last April, the OEH and collaborators released Southern Corroboree Frog eggs and adult frogs into the first-ever quarantined field enclosure of its kind in Kosciuszko National Park.

One year on, these adult and juvenile frogs are thriving and a second remote enclosure was populated on Tuesday.

OEH threatened species officer David Hunter said without intervention, Kosciuszko’s only endemic vertebrate species would become extinct within a few years.

“Our surveys and monitoring suggest that fewer than 20 adult Corroboree Frogs remain in the wild, compared to hundreds of thousands in the 1980s,” Dr Hunter said.

“These quarantined enclosures are important because the precipitous decline of this species is due to an introduced pathogen known as the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus, which travels in water, on resistant species of frogs, and in other ways.

“We’re not sure where this pathogen came from, but it is responsible for the decline and extinction of many hundreds of frog species globally.

“Many frog species that were susceptible to this pathogen and declined in numbers are now showing signs of recovery, and our longer term aim is to help the Southern Corroboree Frog also achieve recovery.

“We are still assessing the effectiveness of this new approach, but we are very happy with the initial results. The juvenile and adult frogs from the first enclosure are in good condition, and there has been successful breeding with the production of viable eggs.”

While techniques to mitigate the impact of the fungus are being investigated, captive breeding colonies of the Southern Corroboree Frog have been established at Taronga Zoo, the Amphibian Research Centre, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary.

Michael McFadden, an expert frog breeder from Taronga Zoo, said it took years to develop the husbandry techniques to reliably breed and maintain the Southern Corroboree Frog in captivity.

“The key has been mimicking the high altitude habitat that this species occupies in the wild, and providing the right environmental clues to stimulate breeding,” Mr McFadden said.

“The value of the field enclosures is that they provide an additional and cost-effective way to prevent the species from becoming completely extinct, in addition to providing progeny for reintroductions and research.

“Given the global impact of the amphibian Chytrid fungus, there is much international interest in the idea that we can maintain threatened frog species in disease-free enclosures.”

The field enclosures have been established in former Snowy Hydro Scheme spoil areas that are being rehabilitated by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Funding for the rehabilitation project was provided by Snowy Hydro Limited to remediate impacts from Snowy Scheme construction.

NPWS Environmental Officer Gabriel Wilks said the project demonstrated how this innovative rehabilitation has led to multiple outcomes.

“Our rehabilitation program is primarily about restoring ecosystem function to degraded parts of the landscape in parts of Kosciuszko National Park,” Ms Wilks said.

“NPWS field staff have designed and constructed unique frog enclosures in a manner that excludes other frogs which may carry Chytrid fungus, and so they are ‘frog-friendly’ for Southern Corroboree frogs.

“It’s now been one year since frogs were introduced into the first enclosure, and things are looking good.”

The spectacularly coloured black and yellow Southern Corroboree Frog, Pseudophryne corroboree, is only found within the high altitude wetlands and bogs of Kosciuszko National Park. It is an iconic species under the Saving Our Species, the overarching framework for managing threatened species.

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Photos of the egg release and frog inspection for news media:

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Contact: Lucy Morrell

Page last updated: 30 April 2014