Researchers from the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning and Melbourne University are preparing to establish an insurance population of the Spotted Tree Frog to safeguard the ongoing survival of the critically endangered species.

Recent field surveys across seven locations in north east Victoria confirmed multiple bushfires, subsequent flooding and a high incidence of a deadly fungal disease, have had significant impacts on the Spotted Tree Frog (Litoria spenceri) population.

Follow-up surveys planned for Spring are expected to confirm the need to remove a small number of frogs from their habitat to commence a captive breeding program led by Zoos Victoria.

The Spotted Tree Frog Project forms part of the Victorian Government’s Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Recovery program which supports on-ground action to help at risk species impacted by last summer’s devastating bushfires.

In the aftermath of the fires, specialist researchers from DELWP and Melbourne University conducted day and night surveys of the frogs isolated habitat, recording each frog’s age, size, and sex. Frogs were also swabbed for the fungus.

“There is a real possibility that we will need to develop captive insurance populations, with increased resistance to the fungus, for potential longer-term reintroduction programs,” Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Senior Natural Environment Programs Officer, Glen Johnson, said.

“The Spotted Tree Frog is critically endangered across Victoria and New South Wales, and in the past three decades has continued to decline due to a range of threats.

“Removing healthy frogs and breeding them in a controlled environment is the likely next step in the recovery strategy for the species. This research is incredibly important for the future of the Spotted Tree Frog in Victoria.”

Melbourne University Research Fellow, Dr Matt West, said in addition to multiple fire impacts and the Chytrid Fungus, other threats to the species include introduced fish species.

“Bushfires can kill the frogs, but post fire heavy rainfall which causes flash flooding, sediment and debris flows, can also severely impact on egg and tadpole recruitment and the frogs’ habitat,”

“The surveys help us to better understand the combined impacts of fire, Chytridiomycosis and other threats on the species.”

“Chytridiomycosis, which is caused by Amphibian Chytrid Fungus, infects the skin of frogs, causing damage to the keratin layer and can ultimately result in death. The fungus is thought to be responsible for the decline of many amphibian species in Australia and around the world.”

The program is supported by the NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub and funding from the Australian Government’s ‘Bushfire Recovery package for wildlife and their habitat.

The post bushfire surveys were conducted in March, all activity complied with DHHS requirements prioritising the safety of the Victorian community, our staff and contractors.

Page last updated: 11/08/20