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NPAACT Home > News Items > Frogs march back to Kosciuszko homeland

Frogs march back to Kosciuszko homeland


Canberra Times, Rosslyn Beeby
Wednesday, 11 January 2006

It's a triumphant moment for Australian threatened species conservation, but it's taken a decade of hard-slog determination.

Picking their way through the mud and moss of an alpine bog in Kosciuszko National Park's vast Jagungal wilderness yesterday, a team of three dedicated scientists cautiously prepared to introduce 100 captive-bred southern corroboree frogs to their natural alpine habitat.

It is world-leading, but chronically underfunded, science that may save Australia's most critically endangered frog from extinction. A recent survey in Kosciuszko National Park located only 30 calling males, and there are fears the species may become extinct within five years.

Their recent dramatic decline is linked to a virulent disease - chytrid fungus - which has decimated frog populations around the world.

But the Project Corroboree scientists may have discovered a way to beat the deadly disease.

"We'd previously experimented with releasing tadpoles hatched from eggs collected in the wild, but this is the first time we've released adult corroboree frogs," the founder of the Amphibian Research Centre, Gerry Marantelli, said.

"We discovered the tadpoles were becoming infected with chytrid from another species, but the adult corroboree frogs have no contact with that species, so we are hoping to leapfrog the chytrid problem stage by releasing adults."

The tiny, colorful jewel-like frogs were quick to adapt to their new surroundings.

"Hey did you see that? One just grabbed an ant and ate it, that's a very good sign," Mr Marantelli said.

But the frogs have been dining on local Jagungal ants for some time. As part of preparations for their release, Mr Marantelli drove from Melbourne to dig up ant nests to give the frogs a taste of things to come.

The corroboree frogs were bred from eggs collected from the wild three years ago by Mr Marantelli, NSW parks service ecologist Dave Hunter and University of Canberra amphibian expert Dr Will Osborne, who has spent three decades studying Australia's alpine frogs. The thumbnail-size frogs made their return journey two days ago, packed among moss in sealed aquarium containers, carefully stowed in the back of a hired station wagon.


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