Deadly fungus killing North Coast frogs

Published 26 September 2003

A researcher at Southern Cross University believes that a deadly fungus is quickly killing the North Coast’s green tree frog population.

David Newell says that cooler than usual weather during winter has caused an outbreak of amphibian chytrid, a fungus that has been killing frogs around the world. The fungus affects the skin and damages internal organs, paralysing the frog and eventually killing it.

Mr Newell, a PhD candidate with SCU’s School of Environmental Science and Management, says that the discovery of increasing numbers of sick green tree frogs in the region confirms his suspicion that the fungus is spreading at an unprecedented rate.

“The fungus usually only attacks frogs in high elevation rainforest streams where the mortality events usually go undetected,” Mr Newell said. “However, the relatively cooler winter this year has seen the fungus become virulent in a range of low elevation, relatively common species such as the green tree frog,” Mr Newell said.

The National Parks & Wildlife Service has recently listed the chytrid fungus under the Threatened Species Conservation Act in a bid to formulate strategies to halt its spread.

“One way that the fungus is spread is via the inadvertent movement of frogs in produce and garden supplies,” Mr Newell said. “It is estimated that many thousands of frogs are moved around the country in banana boxes each year and are often released at their destination. Not only do these frogs usually die because they are out of their geographic range, but they may carry the fungus.”

Mr Newell advised people to not deliberately move frogs or tadpoles because they may introduce pathogens into native frog populations. It is also illegal.

“If you want to have frogs in your garden then the best way to do this is simply through the creation of frog friendly gardens,” he said. “Frogs have an uncanny ability to seek out such gardens eventually.”

If you find sick or dying frogs on your property, or have seen this phenomenon in the past, then please contact David Newell at Southern Cross University on 66203158.

Picture caption: SCU researcher David Newell with a healthy Fleay's Barred Frog

Media: Contact Kath Duncan or Sara Crowe on 6620 3144, or 0418 166423.