Funding to Save the Frogs

Sick: A frog suffereing from Chytridmiocosis.
Photo Credit: Lee Berger

JCU scientists are calling for more funding to save endangered frogs.

By Judith Aisthorpe


James Cook University scientists are calling for more funding from the Federal Government to research a fungus that is killing frogs worldwide.

The spread of the Chytrid Fungus has resulted in the rapid decline in frog populations across the globe.

JCU Senior Research Fellow Lee Berger is researching the Chytrid Fungus and says $15 million is needed to protect the species at risk.

“The task force is made up of frog managers from the different states and a few disease scientists,” Lee says.

“We’ve estimated that $15 million would be needed over five years to safe guard the seven species that we think are really high risk.”

To date the Federal Government has spent almost $900 000 on research programs into the Chytrid Fungus.


Frogs: The Common Mist Frog. Photo Credit: Lee Berger

Lee says that any further money secured would be spent on initiatives that focus on keeping the frogs alive in the wild such as setting up Recovery Teams for each of the seven species.

The money would also be spent on working out how to effectively release the frogs back into the wild and further the research into selection for resistance.

“Releasing the frogs into purpose built enclosures in the wild to keep out the disease is an idea that is being used,” Lee says.

“That’s one example that’s currently happening with the Corroboree Frog.”


What is Chytrid Fungus?

Chytrid Fungus is a disease that affects most frog species around the world.

It is believed to have originated from Asia and has slowly made its way around the globe, reaching Australia in the 1970s.

A review of the Threat Abatement Plan for Infection of Amphibians with Chytrid Fungus Resulting in Chytridiomycosis conducted by the Australian Government in 2012 reports, “Chytridiomycosis/B. dendrobatidis has caused the decline and extinction of several hundred amphibian species globally. In Australia it has caused the extinction of at least four species (all from Queensland), and the dramatic decline of at least 10 more.”

The disease affects the frog’s skin, which is a vital part of the frog’s system as the skin controls fluid retention, respiration and electrolytes.

Sick: A frog suffereing from Chytridmiocosis. Photo Credit: Lee Berger

Sick: A frog suffering from Chytridiomycosis.
Photo Credit: Lee Berger

Lee says the Fungus causes Chtridiomycosis, which is an infection that reacts with the skin’s metabolic functions.

“It [the Fungus] kills frogs,” Lee says.

“It can take a few weeks but it’s a skin infection.

“It occurs in the very superficial layers of the skin.”

The Australian Department of Environment has listed the fungus as an invasive species that is a “highly virulent fungal pathogen of amphibians [that] is capable at the minimum of causing sporadic deaths in some populations, and 100 per cent mortality in other populations.”

Under the Scope: A close up of Fungus infected frog skin.  Photo Credit: Lee Berger.

Under the Scope: A close-up of Fungus infected frog skin.
Photo Credit: Lee Berger.

The annually released Australian Bureau of Statistics Year Book [2012] indicates that 1785 species of animals and plants are threatened.

Of the 1785 species, 33 are threatened frogs and almost a third have been identified as being directly affected by Chytrid Fungus.

The seven Australian frogs that have been identified by Lee to be at risk of endangerment or extinction from the fungus within the decade include the Kroombit Tinker Frog, Armoured Mist Frog, Southern Corroboree Frog, Northern Corroboree Frog, Baw Baw Frog, Spotted Tree Frog and the Tasmanian Tree Frog.

The populations of these species have been impacted by Chytridiomycosis as a result of the spread of the Chytrid Fungus.

People can help save threatened frogs by jumping on the website or contacting their local politician to voice their concern.


Conserving the Frogs