Decades-long’ quest starts to save endangered spotted tree frog7th July 2021
But after the fires there were seven groups with some of those down to tens of frogs compared with hundreds before the fires.
Zoos Victoria threatened species biologist Deon Gilbert said the breeding program, the Spotted Tree Frog Project, would be “decades long” and the Healesville Sanctuary frogs were an “insurance population” against extinction.
The project is a collaboration between Zoos Victoria, the Victorian and NSW environment departments and the University of Melbourne.
Funders include the Victorian and Federal governments, donations, and a Cadbury chocolate campaign for endangered frogs, linked to Freddo frogs.
Mr Gilbert believes the spotted tree frog population has more than halved in the past 20 years and is “decreasing pretty consistently year to year”.
The 19 breeding frogs were taken from creek banks and under logs, in different areas in north-eastern Victoria, to ensure genetic diversity.
Researchers caught them by listening for the male frog’s distinctive high-pitched “eek” call and looking for the shine of their eyes in torch light.
The frogs now live safe from predators in individual tanks. They are fed live crickets, and are in brumation (inactive with slowed metabolism) for the winter.
Around October, the temperature will be increased to simulate nature, and the frogs will be put into larger tanks in pairs and groups for breeding.
Mr Gilbert said the program was insurance against a serious threat. “If we had another couple of fires in the next few years, which is possible, we run the risk of losing more animals, before anything’s done about it.”