Rare frog species jump for joy in Taronga | the islander

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A critically endangered Australian frog has been launched after moving into a purpose-built breeding habitat at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.

The rare Booroolong frogs, native to the northern tablelands of New South Wales, are being supported to increase their numbers in captivity after a severe drought pushed the species to the brink.

The 58 frogs are an “insurance colony”, said Michael McFadden, unit supervisor for Taronga Zoo’s herpetofauna department.

The frogs have been affected by the drying up of streams during recent droughts, sediment buildup in streams and chytrid fungus, McFadden said.

The widespread fungus causes a highly contagious disease that can quickly kill amphibians.

“During the recent drought in 2019, the habitat of the Boorolong frog dried up,” he said, adding that many failed to breed during that time.

The alarm was raised that the amphibians were disappearing “at a rapid rate”.

Work was quickly undertaken to save the species, with a habitat survey finding 60 Booroolong frogs, with help from Taronga Zoo, the Australian Museum and the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species programme.

“It was almost all we could find of the species at the time,” he said.

The frogs were moved to a dedicated $178,000 rearing facility, funded by the Saving Our Species program.

“The prolonged drought we’ve had in northern New South Wales has certainly had a big impact on this species,” he said.

“It is evident that they have probably disappeared from some of the local waterways in which they were found.”

The greatest benefit to the species would come from captive breeding before the species could be reintroduced into the wild, he said.

Australian amphibian numbers were declining due to threats of drought, bushfires and the “devastating” chytrid fungus, said Environment Minister James Griffin.

“That’s why, on this World Wetlands Day, we celebrate the success of the Booroolong frog captive breeding program, and hope that it will ultimately help revive their wetland habitat.”

“We know that habitat protection and conservation is key to securing the future of this important native species.”

Australian Associated Press

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