Australian frogs are facing extinction

JESSICA LAWRENCE – NEWS.COM.AU

AUSTRALIAN frogs are facing the biggest wildlife extinction threat since the disappearance of dinosaurs, with 14 of the most endangered species in Queensland.

The warning comes from amphibian expert Natalie Hill, of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and University of Queensland frog expert Professor Gordon Grigg.

Ms Hill said Queensland frogs in most danger were stream-dwellers like the Fleays Barred Frog and the Great Barred Frog, found in the Gold Coast hinterland, and the Lienis Frog, only found in the Ghungalu National Park west of Rockhampton.

“In some spots in the hinterland the Fleays are gone already,” she said.

Other species, including those found in suburban back yards, also needed protecting if they were to survive, Ms Hill said.

The threat has been recognised by naming 2008 The Year of the Frog, with experts saying people must act now to halt climate change, habitat loss, water pollution, introduced predators and a pathogenic skin-eating fungus, which have taken frogs to the brink of extinction around the world.

“The biggest contributor to their decline is the chytrid fungus, which has been transported around the world via toads humans use for medical research,” Ms Hill said.

More than 3000 of the world’s 6000 species of amphibians are now at risk of dying out.

Of the 219 Australian species, 122 are in Queensland, placing us at the centre of the battle to save frogs.

Scientists on the Gold Coast plan to build special “mini-arks” to house frogs for breeding programs so they can be released back into the wild.

Ms Hill said further research into how to stop chytrid fungus spreading in the wild needed to be done.

“At the moment we can’t stop the fungus in the wild, but there are treatments for captive frogs,” she said.

“Over time, it’s hoped frogs in captivity may build up a resilience to it and then be released back into the wild.”

Ms Hill said the frog extinction risk was the world’s “wake-up call”.

“In the past 20 years Australia has had eight frogs become extinct. Six of those were in Queensland,” she said.

Ms Hill – who will talk about the topic at Gecko House, 139 Duringan St, Currumbin, at 6.30pm Wednesday – said Currumbin planned to build “mini Noah’s arks” for frogs as part of a $50 million worldwide program to build high-quarantine safehouses across the planet.

University of Queensland Emeritus Professor Gordon Grigg compared frogs to “the canaries in the coalmines” because of their indicator status of the planet’s health.

How can you help?

  • Build a frog-friendly garden, including an elevated water feature like a wheelbarrow or barrel surrounded by reeds.
  • Limit the amount of chemicals you use in the home or garden to protect our waterways.
  • Keep cats and dogs inside at night.
  • Wash boots after walking in national parks to stop the spread of the chytrid fungus.
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