Making sure our frogs don’t croak

By Lucy Mercer-Mapstone

As a child of the nineties growing up in North Queensland, an almost daily ritual for me was rescuing the cheeky green tree frogs that rested in the cool of the porcelain haven under the toilet seat. These iconic critters were a joyous part of everyday life.

Frog peaking over a toilet seat

A common sight in Queensland. Image: Flickr / Aidan Jones

Returning to Queensland nearly fifteen years later it has become a rare and special thing to find one of these striking frogs in my home – or anywhere in the urban environment.

Queensland boasts the highest number of frog species of any state in Australia, but with nearly a fifth of these species listed as threatened and up to six already extinct, it may not be a title we hold for long. One of our field scientists, Eric Vanderduys, cites numerous causes for this decline.

A yellow frog puffing its throat

One of Queensland’s more vivid species, this male Laughing tree frog (Litoria tyleri) is belting out his tune at the start of the breeding season. By day he puts on his camouflage and will turn brown with a faint green mottling.

At high altitude, Chytrid fungus is almost certainly a leading cause. Where as the declines around suburban areas and more generally across the state can be attributed to habitat modification for urbanisation, such as house and crop development.

Climate change plays its part too, says Eric, although the exact extent of this influence is largely unknown.

It’s not all bad news for these amphibians though. Eric says that despite the decline a few species that were previously thought to be lost have hopped back onto the radar.

‘The Armoured Mistfrog was missing, presumed extinct, for about 17 years until rediscovered in 2008, while the Waterfall Frog disappeared from most highland habitats, but has now recovered in many of these areas,’ said Eric.

Green frog with brown spots sitting on moss

The Waterfall frog (Litoria nannotis) is an endangered species which lives in highland populations. This species was recently rediscovered after having been thought to be extinct.

This fact enables fellow frog enthusiasts to live in hope that it’s not all doom and gloom for our friendly frog populations.

Eric’s new book, the Field Guide to the Frogs of Queensland,  was recently launched in Townsville. It provides a comprehensive and fascinating catalogue of every Queensland frog species, including how to recognise them, biological information, points of interest, and beautiful photos for each species. The book arises from over 20 years of experience as a field naturalist, ecologist, and fauna surveyor.

Man holding a book

Eric with the product of his hard work. Image courtesy of Magnetic Times

Eric believes that the book will allow people to discover the amazing diversity of frogs that share our lives.

“It will help people to work out what type of frog it is in their back yard, and when you know what it is you start to understand them, and are more likely to care for them,” said Eric.

It’s this kind of awareness that makes every bit of difference in brightening the rather grim prospects for Queensland’s frogs. So if you’ve ever wondered about that rowdy chorus of croaks outside your window this might be the perfect opportunity to discover who’s responsible and do something to protect our amphibious neighbours.

The book is available from CSIRO Publishing.

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