At least 7,500 different frog species are found worldwide, but did you know that more than one-third of these are listed as threatened or extinct? World Frog Day is observed on 20 March to increase awareness of the plight of threatened frog species and highlight things we can do to help protect them.
Australia is lucky to have a diverse range of frogs, with over 240 species described and probably more to be discovered. Many species are not found anywhere else on Earth, but some of our frog populations are in decline, with close to 20 percent of all Australian frogs listed as threatened.
Frogs play an important role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Frogs are excellent at pest control and are a critical part of the food chain, being both predator and prey. They also absorb pollutants from the air and water through their spongy and porous skin, making them susceptible to changes in the natural environment. This makes the presence or absence of frogs a great indication of whether an environment is healthy or degraded.
In New South Wales, 30 frog species are listed as threatened, primarily because of:
disease caused by the amphibian chytrid fungus
climate change-induced pressures such as drought and fire
habitat loss, destruction and fragmentation.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though! At Saving our Species (SoS), we are committed to securing NSW’s threatened frogs and currently have conservation projects in place for 14 frog species. Our conservation actions are making a difference, including captive breeding and release programs, the delivery of water for the environment to wetlands and citizen science monitoring programs.
As we observe World Frog Day, let’s take a closer look at what’s being done to save our frogs and find out how we can all help save these beautiful creatures.
Southern corroboree frog
Southern corroboree frogs (Pseudophryne corroboree). Frog call: David Hunter/DPE. Photo: Alex Pike/DPE.
The southern corroboree frog (Pseudophryne corroboree) is perhaps Australia’s most iconic and visually spectacular frog. When you look at images of the deep yellow and black stripes on this tiny (as long as an average fingernail!) frog, you can understand why. It is also extremely rare and only found in Kosciuszko National Park.
This critically endangered species has declined mainly because of chytrid fungus, but feral animals and climate change also pose a serious threat.
Fortunately, conservation efforts for the southern corroboree frog have prevented its extinction and helped to safeguard the population through the establishment of a large-scale captive breeding and insurance program at Taronga Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary. Since 2022, 200 corroboree frogs have been reintroduced to a purpose-built field enclosure in Kosciuszko National Park, which protects them from chytrid fungus while allowing them to grow and thrive.
The SoS southern corroboree frog conservation project is led by Saving our Species, in partnership with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and others from zoological institutions, government agencies and universities. The project supports the development of reintroduction techniques to maintain the species in the wild and research into mitigating the impacts of chytrid fungus and contributes to the control of feral pigs in the Jagungal Wilderness Area of Kosciuszko National Park.
Booroolong frog (Litoria booroolongensis). Frog call: supplied by Ed McNabb, Ninox Pursuits. Photo: Stuart Cohen/DPE.
The Booroolong frog (Litoria booroolongensis) mostly inhabits streams on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. These frogs usually live for a single breeding season, making them vulnerable when streams dry up during severe drought. Devastatingly, the entire population was almost completely wiped out in the 2019 droughts and the 2019–2020 bushfires.
Conservation efforts for the Booroolong frog include the establishment of a captive insurance population at Taronga Zoo, where 58 frogs are housed in a state-of-the-art facility and are breeding, for reintroduction into streams where the drought had caused the species’ disappearance.
Saving our Species has supported conservation outcomes for the Booroolong frog by working with landowners and project partners on actions that protect this imperilled frog’s habitat, including fencing sections of stream and promoting the establishment of native riparian vegetation, controlling invasive weeds that smother breeding habitat, and controlling feral pigs to protect important riparian habitat.
This project is led by the SoS program in collaboration with NPWS, Central Tablelands, Murray and Riverina Local Land Services (LLS), NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) – Fisheries, the NSW Environmental Trust, Southern Cross Forests, Taronga Zoo, the Australian Museum, PF Olsen Australia and many participating landholders.
Sloane's froglet (Crinia sloanei). Frog call: David Hunter/DPE. Photo: Stuart Cohen/DPE.
In New South Wales, Sloane’s froglet (Crinia sloanei) is found in only a few locations along the Murray River. These tiny, winter-breeding frogs persist in shallow vegetated wetlands and artificial water bodies such as dams, roadside swales and even stormwater basins.
Urban development is a major threat to this species, but fortunately these frogs are able to adapt to artificial wetlands if they are built in the right way. One of the successes of the Saving our Species Sloane’s froglet conservation project has been the formal incorporation of Sloane’s froglet habitat requirements into planning processes for urban development where populations of Sloane’s froglet occur.
People living in the Albury, Corowa and Tocumwal areas are encouraged to become Sloane’s Champions citizen scientists and help to monitor Sloane’s froglet by visiting local wetlands, recording calling frogs and uploading call data through the Australian Museum's FrogID program.
Anyone can download the FrogID app, create a user profile and join the Sloane's Champions group.
The data collected complements the Saving our Species monitoring program and assists with conservation planning for this threatened species by helping to build a picture of how Sloane’s froglet distribution is changing over time.
Green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea). Frog call: Martin Potts, supplied by the Australian Museum. Photo: Dean Portelli/DPE.
You can’t get more Australian than the green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea). A large, plump frog, ranging from 4.5 to 10 cm in length, this species is one of the few Australian frogs that sometimes basks in the sun.
Unlike most Litoria species, green and golden bell frogs are active during the day and night. They live in trees and natural wetland areas like floodplains and lagoons but also take well to ponds that have grassy and rocky habitat around them, man-made structures and highly disturbed areas such as industrial areas and old quarries.
Green and golden bell frogs have gone from being one of the most commonly found frogs, present in vast numbers along the east coast of Australia, to one of the most threatened. Their decline is due to the chytrid fungus, habitat loss and fragmentation, and predation from introduced fish such as the plague minnow (Gambusia holbrooki).
SoS is working to secure the green and golden bell frog through: monitoring and occupancy modelling to determine the factors most important for the presence of the species; research on how best to help the species deal with chytrid fungus; and habitat mapping, restoration and weed reduction programs. This work is being done across sites that represent the current distribution in New South Wales.
People living in the Nowra to Greenwell Point area are encouraged to become Guardians of the Green and Golden Bell Frog citizen scientists and help to monitor the species by visiting local wetlands, recording and photographing frogs, and uploading call and visual data through the Australian Museum's FrogID program.
Anyone can download the FrogID app, create a user profile and join the Guardians of the Green and Golden Bell Frog group.
Southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis). Frog call: supplied by Murray Littlejohn, University of Melbourne. Photo: Helen Waudby/DPE.
The southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis) is one of the largest frog species in Australia, reaching up to 104 mm in length. Until the 1980s, this species occurred through much of south-eastern Australia and was relatively widespread in New South Wales. Today, it’s known to exist only in relatively isolated populations in the Mid Murray Valley, the Coleambally and Mid Murrumbidgee areas, the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain and near Lake Victoria in far south-west New South Wales.
The species’ dramatic decline is likely related to chytrid fungus, regulation of flooding and river systems reducing suitable wetland habitat and breeding opportunities, overgrazing around wetlands, and possibly predation from exotic fish such as mosquito fish.
Southern bell frogs require wetlands that fill over spring and summer and hold water for several months to breed successfully. SoS works in partnership with the NSW Government’s Water for the Environment program to ensure the precise and targeted delivery of water for the environment to networks of wetlands to support breeding populations of southern bell frog. Thanks to these well-timed flows, environmental water managers, irrigators and private landholders have been able to replicate the optimum breeding conditions for southern bell frogs, helping them colonise new sites and recolonise wetlands where they haven’t been recorded in years.
This project is supported by numerous partners, including environmental water managers, non-government organisations, Traditional Owners, industry, research institutions and private landholders.
Saving our Species is fortunate to have some of Australia’s leading conservation biologists in frog research and ecology developing and delivering collaborative strategies, informed by research and monitoring, to improve the long-term prospects of threatened frogs.
Conservation strategies for these species build on decades of research and management as well as longstanding partnerships between different agencies and individuals.
Calling citizen scientists!
FrogID is a national citizen science project that's helping scientists learn more about what's happening to Australia’s frogs. Download the FrogID app and you can discover which frogs live around you and help monitor Australia's frog population.