80 critically endangered spotted tree frogs are leaping back into the wild in NSW two years after the 2019-20 summer bushfires nearly wiped out the species.
“Despite all the challenges this species has suffered, releasing these 80 spotted tree frogs back into the wild is a reminder to have optimism about the conservation work we’re doing,” NSW environment minister James Griffin said in a statement on Monday.
A lethal disease that nearly wiped out the frogs, as well as the southern and northern corroboree frogs, in 2001 was one of these setbacks.
When the terrible bushfires blazed across woods and wilderness across the state, the amphibians, which were estimated to number around 250-300 at the time, were reduced to about ten.
The release, after a successful breeding program, into Kosciuszko national park helps give the species, which is unique to NSW and Victoria, a second chance.
“The spotted tree frog is fundamental to the maintenance of ecosystem health in the NSW upland rivers where it lives,” said the Department of Planning and Environment’s senior threatened species officer, David Hunter.
“It occupies many streams where they are the only frog species, and tadpoles of this species consume nutrients and algae in large numbers.
“They are also food for other species such as snakes, birds, mammals and predatory invertebrates, playing an important role in the food web,” Hunter said.
The NSW government’s Saving our Species program is backed by a $175m commitment over 10 years. Australia has the highest rate of species extinction in the world, with the climate crisis expected to raise the risk of further annihilation.
Earlier this month, Griffin announced a record $200m for koala conservation to help double the state population of the endangered Australian icon.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 18 April 2022. Lead Image: The spotted tree frog population was estimated to have been reduced to 10 after the 2019-20 bushfires. Photograph: Jason Edwards/Getty Images.
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