Why frogs are the un­sung he­roes of our gar­den and need pro­tect­ing.

The Eastern Stony Creek frog (Li­to­ria wilcoxii) Photo credit: Stephen Ma­honey

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - Kathy Pot­ter

Frogs are won­der­ful crea­tures with an amazing range of adap­ta­tions and breed­ing strate­gies to help them sur­vive. Aus­tralia has more than 240 species of na­tive frogs. Sadly though, they’re not do­ing so well in ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments, where habi­tat loss, pol­lu­tion, feral an­i­mals and dis­ease are all lined up against them. The good news is any­one can help our frogs to sur­vive by cre­at­ing a space that meets their three sim­ple needs: wa­ter, shel­ter and safety.

Wa­ter

Frogs need wa­ter to sur­vive though they don’t usu­ally live in the wa­ter - they mostly use it for breed­ing. This means frogs will be at­tracted to wa­ter bod­ies that suit their breed­ing strate­gies. For the Striped Marsh Frog, one of the most com­mon species in ur­ban Syd­ney, any wa­ter they can climb into is suit­able. Striped Marsh Frogs are pro­lific breed­ers, lay­ing eggs all year round in any wa­ter they can find in­clud­ing shal­low con­tain­ers such as a dog’s wa­ter bowl. Peron’s Tree Frogs, an­other com­mon ur­ban species, are more likely to be at­tracted to very large wa­ter bod­ies, such as swim­ming pools, or to con­tain­ers with high straight sides that Striped Marsh Frogs can’t climb into.

Shel­ter

Frogs are noc­tur­nal and to sur­vive they need shel­ter from the dry­ing heat of the day. Again, dif­fer­ent frogs will be at­tracted by dif­fer­ent types of shel­ter. Peron’s Tree Frogs, and Green Tree Frogs en­joy pipes, letterboxes, and cool moist places like wa­ter tanks. Dwarf Tree Frogs en­joy liv­ing on veg­e­ta­tion in or very near wa­ter, in­clud­ing reeds, wa­ter lilies and in the wells of bromeli­ads. Striped Marsh frogs, be­ing ground frogs, live in dense leaf lit­ter which they bur­row into dur­ing the day to keep moist.

Safety

Frogs have very sen­si­tive skin be­cause they ac­tu­ally drink through their skin rather than with their mouths. This makes them very sus­cep­ti­ble to chem­i­cal pol­lu­tants such as paint, weed killers, pes­ti­cides and soaps. So if you want to make a frog-friendly space, con­sider where you use, and how you dis­pose of house­hold chem­i­cals.

Pets can also pose a prob­lem for frogs. You can greatly help your lo­cal frogs by keep­ing your pets in­doors at night, when frogs will be most ac­tive, and try­ing to have some ar­eas of the gar­den where the dogs don’t go.

Once you’ve de­cided to create a frogfriendly space, your first step should be to find out what frogs are com­mon in your area. Dis­cover whether they’re ground frogs that bur­row and live only on the ground, or tree frogs, so that you can make sure you have the right kind of wa­ter and shel­ter for the species you are likely to at­tract.

Then all you have to do is set up your wa­ter and wait for the frogs to come to you. Be aware though, that it’s il­le­gal to move frogs or tad­poles from some­where else into your own gar­den.

That said, frogs are re­source­ful and if you give them time, they’re likely to find your wa­ter body, even if it’s on a high apart­ment bal­cony.

Frogs as part of your lo­cal ecosys­tem

When peo­ple build frog ponds which be­gin to be pop­u­lated by frogs, it can be quite shock­ing to find that we’re not the only ones in­ter­ested in frogs and tad­poles. A suc­cess­ful frog pond will also at­tract a range of preda­tors in­clud­ing birds such as Kook­abur­ras, Cur­ra­wongs, Butcher Birds and Mag­pies, as well as lizards and some­times snakes, who will come to eat your frogs and tad­poles. Dragon­flies are also at­tracted to frog ponds as their aquatic lar­vae can eat tad­poles. It may be alarm­ing to think of the an­i­mals you’re try­ing to en­cour­age be­ing eaten, but this is part of the nor­mal life of frogs and to be suc­cess­ful, a frog pond needs to be part of a bal­anced ecosys­tem.

Frogs dine on a range of in­sects, which can be ben­e­fi­cial for gar­dens, although they’re not known for con­trol­ling mos­qui­toes, while tad­poles are largely her­bi­vores and eat al­gae, help­ing to con­trol the al­gae lev­els in your pond. So ide­ally a frog pond should be the ba­sis of an in­tri­cate food web of preda­tors and prey which as­sists in the in­te­gra­tion of na­tive crea­tures into our ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments.

Frogs as pets

While it’s le­gal to keep frogs as pets in NSW, you need an ap­pro­pri­ate li­cence from the NSW govern­ment. How­ever it’s il­le­gal to take frogs from the wild, even from your own back­yard. Pet frogs must be sourced from a li­cenced frog keeper or or­gan­i­sa­tion. The Frog and Tad­pole Study Group of NSW does re-home res­cued frogs with mem­bers, but we en­cour­age peo­ple to en­joy frogs by at­tract­ing them to your gar­den and en­joy­ing them as part of your gar­den ecosys­tem. You don’t need a li­cence to have frogs liv­ing wild in your gar­den, but please don’t in­tro­duce them from other lo­ca­tions - be pa­tient and let them come of their own ac­cord.

Keep up with re­cent changes to this li­cenc­ing sys­tem at: http://www. en­vi­ron­ment.nsw.gov.au/li­cences-and­per­mits/wildlife-li­cences/na­tive-an­i­mal­sas-pets/frog-keeper-li­cences to make sure you ap­ply for the cor­rect kind of li­cence.

The Blue Moun­tains Tree Frog (Li­to­ria cit­ropa) breeds in qui­eter parts of fast mov­ing wa­ter - not what we think of as a typ­i­cal frog breed­ing habi­tat.

Kathy Pot­ter, with her pet frog Godzilla

Pseu­dophryne aus­tralis

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