Helping Our Frogs
New Zealand has 4 endemic species of very special frog. Most people will never see these as they all endangered. They tend to live in seclusion in habitats ranging from rock faces to bush to forest streams. They are small, nocturnal and silent.
We also have three introduced species of frogs all of which come from Australia where two of the species are endangered. In contrast these frogs are large, loud and are frequently seen basking in the sun. These are the frogs we see and hear around our gardens. Many people I have spoken to over the last year have noticed frogs disappearing, ponds that usually became a noisy chorus of croaking in the spring remain silent. People love frogs and like to see them around their environment. So with good intentions people collect/buy tadpoles and release them or newly morphed frogs into their gardens. Most people do not realise it is actually illegal to release frogs and tadpoles into the wild. Further, unbeknown to them these tadpoles and frogs can be infected with a deadly fungus, a fungus that has caused worldwide declines in frogs, this fungus is called chytrid fungus. Chytrid fungus has been referred to as the most devastating epidemic of modern times because it has affected so many species of amphibians and is so widespread.
Disease is not the only threat to frogs though; predators, pollution and habitat loss also pose big problems for frogs as they do for other native flora and fauna. Frogs are often referred to as bio-indicators and as such can alert us to environmental problems. So the disappearance of our introduced frogs may indicate a threat to our endemic frogs and other native wildlife.
My research investigates how people move frogs around and what disease risk there is to New Zealand’s endemic frogs. I will be testing introduced frogs around Auckland to see where chytrid fungus is present and look at the effect it is having on the introduced frog populations. Chytrid is only one disease affecting frogs, by investigating how it is spread through people moving frogs around it will provide a model for other amphibian diseases that may be accidentally spread by this means.
For me it is important to encourage people to take an interest in frogs but to educate people so they can do it in a safe way that will keep our endemic frogs safe from disease. Part of my PhD will be producing a pamphlet to help educate people about the species of frog in New Zealand: how to identify them, how to keep them disease free and how to encourage them to come back to our gardens.
I would like to give a huge and sincere thank you to Central Auckland Forest and Bird for helping me through funding the Auckland based part of my research.