Australian Defence Force flies in experts to assess corroboree frogs

By Australian Geographic 31 January 2020
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Ecologists are concerned the unique frogs have been hard hit by the recent bushfires.

THE AUSTRALIAN Defence Force has flown threatened species experts to remote parts of Kosciuszko National Park to assess any damage to the endangered southern corroboree frog from the recent bushfires. 

Enclosures based at four corroboree frog habitat sites were assessed by a team of specialists from the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program, Taronga Zoo and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. One of those enclosures had been burned, while another is threatened by an active fire.

Image credit: Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

“Unfortunately, there has been damage to the habitat inside the enclosures and also to the irrigation equipment, but luckily the fences surrounding them remained secure,” NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said. 

“Sadly, a number of the frogs perished and so all our efforts are now focused on protecting the remaining frogs by reinforcing moist habitat refuges in the enclosures and checking there’s enough food for the colourful but tiny amphibians.”

Captive populations of the frog are held by Taronga Zoo, Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, however, wild populations may have taken a hit during the recent bushfires. 

Image credit: Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

The small frog with striking yellow stripes on its black body has been decimated by the fatal amphibian chytrid fungus, which reduced the population from an estimated several hundred thousand individuals to just 20 since the 1980s.

Scientists are also concerned about the pressure feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park are putting on surviving wildlife, as there is now competition for even less resources.

“We hovered [in a helicopter] over a key wetland for the northern corroboree frog that had not been burnt, deep in the alpine forest,” ecologist Professor Jamie Pittock wrote in The Conversation.

“A group of feral horses stood in it. They had created muddy wallows, trampled vegetation and worn tracks that will drain the wetland if their numbers are not immediately controlled.”

There are now calls for an emergency cull of feral horses in the national park due to the increasing threat of extinction.