Tiny frogs struggle for survival

Image: Lorinda Taylor

One of the snowy region’s most striking residents, the Southern Corroboree Frog, is fighting for survival.

With an estimated 80 frogs left in the wild, Taronga Zoo has successfully bred 150 fertile eggs in captivity for the first time. The brilliant yellow and black-striped amphibian lives only in elevations above 1,000 metres in Kosciuszko National Park.

Comparative surveys reveal the population has plummeted from around 750 frogs recorded ten years ago. Taronga’s Herpetofauna Manager Peter Harlow says a skin fungus known as Chytrid is the leading cause of their decline. “Chytrid fungus doesn’t hurt tadpoles, but that’s when [they tend to] contract it,” he says. “It doesn’t actually harm them until they turn into a frog,” he says. This long pause between contraction and the development of symptoms means the fungus can quickly spread through whole groups.

Despite early success, Harlow notes the breeding program still has a long way to go. “Next year we hope to have many more females mature,” he says. The Taronga breeding program is run in collaboration with the Amphibian Research Centre, the University of Canberra and the NSW government.

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