Fund­ing fight for frog sur­vival

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Shane Ni­chols

HE’S called the Ar­moured Mist Frog but ap­par­ently the ar­mour isn’t quite enough, as his pre­car­i­ous ex­is­tence threat­ens to get a whole lot worse un­less there’s help soon.

The deadly Chytrid Fun­gus has wiped out six frog species since it reached Aus­tralia in 1978, with an­other seven in im­mi­nent dan­ger, in­clud­ing our Ar­moured Tree Frog.

He’s ‘‘ our’’ Ar­moured Tree Frog be­cause L. Ior­ica is only found in the Wet Trop­ics of Aus­tralia, specif­i­cally in four lo­cal­i­ties where there are fast- flow­ing creeks and streams in rain­forests: Alexan­dra Creek, Hilda Creek (Cape Tribu­la­tion NP), Roar­ing Meg Cas­cades, and Moss­man Bluff Creek (Dain­tree NP) – at be­tween 640 me­tres and 1000 me­tres in al­ti­tude.

The Ar­moured Tree Frog, first iden­ti­fied in 1976, was once thriv­ing, but the fun­gus which be­gan to at­tack the pop­u­la­tion in the late ‘70s is thought to be the main rea­son for a col­lapse in its num­bers.

The sit­u­a­tion now is so bad that the Ar­moured Tree Frog is on the en­dan­gered species list. It is only two stops away on the chart from be­ing of­fi­cially ex­tinct.

The Ar­moured Tree Frog has al­ready dis­ap­peared from view once in mod­ern times – it wasn’t spotted from 1991 all the way to 2008.

Sci­en­tists fear seven crit­i­cally threat­ened frog species will be­come ex­tinct within the next decade un­less vi­tal re­search fund­ing is se­cured.

James Cook Univer­sity se­nior re­search fel­low Dr Lee Sk­er­ratt has been closely fol­low­ing the plight of the seven threat­ened species as num­bers con­tinue to rapidly de­cline.

Dr Sk­er­ratt said the fu­ture of the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered species could be se­cured with a rel­a­tively mod­est in­crease in fund­ing to­wards re­search and dis­ease man­age­ment.

‘‘ With a re­search and man­age­ment pro­gram cost­ing about $15 mil­lion over five years, we be­lieve we can save these frogs from extinction,’’ he said.

‘‘With a $1 tril­lion dol­lar an­nual econ­omy, Aus­tralians should be able to af­ford spend­ing this rel­a­tively small amount of cash to save our frogs.’’

Two o f the seven species at risk live in Queens­land – and the Ar­moured Mist Frog from the Wet Trop­ics World Her­itage Area in North Queens­land.

The six other species at risk are: the Kroom­bit Tinker Frog from Kroom­bit Tops Na­tional Park, the South­ern Cor­ro­boree Frog of Mt Kosciuszko Na­tional Park; the North­ern Cor­ro­boree Frog of Mt Kosciuszko Na­tional Park and ad­ja­cent na­tional and state parks; the Baw Baw Frog of Mt Baw Baw Na­tional Park; the Spotted Tree Frog from the Vic­to­rian Alps; and the Tas­ma­nian Tree Frog from the Tas­ma­nian World Her­itage Area.

Dr Sk­er­ratt said sci­en­tists had iden­ti­fied new re­search re­quired such as en­hanc­ing nat­u­ral se­lec­tion against the fun­gus, as of­fer­ing the best chance for t h e seven c r i t i c a l l y en­dan­gered frogs to sur­vive.

‘‘Like a lot of these sorts of sit­u­a­tions, the real prob­lem is try­ing to ob­tain longterm fund­ing,’’ he said.

‘‘It has been 16 years since dis­ease was recog­nised as the cause of frog de­clines, but these types of prob­lems are not eas­ily solved.

‘‘ You also have to re­mem­ber that fi­nan­cial re­sources for wildlife dis­ease are on a much smaller scale."

Nick Cle­mann from the Arthur Ry­lah In­sti­tute for En­vi­ron­men­tal Re­search in Vic­to­ria said time was run­ning out.

‘‘There are no sec­ond chances when you’re talk­ing about extinction,’’ he said.

Pic­ture: ROBERT PUSCHENDORF

FROG:

Li­to­ria Lor­ica and Li­to­ria Nan­no­tis

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