Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NSW Govt scientists jump to aid of endangered frog

The endangered Booroolong Frog may be on the road to recovery after an army of NSW Government scientists teamed up to save it with a targeted conservation program and cutting-edge Environmental DNA (eDNA) science.

It’s a major win for the native amphibian whose northern populations were all but wiped out in the 2017-2020 drought, said NSW Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe.

“We are thrilled to see the initial findings suggesting Booroolong Frogs are starting to recover,” she said.

In 2019, quick-thinking scientists led by the NSW Government’s Saving our Species program sprung into action, collecting 60 frogs to establish a breeding program at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Last month, 656 juvenile Booroolong Frogs were released into the Cockburn River catchment near Tamworth to help boost numbers in the NSW Northern Slopes and Tablelands.

The release comes off the back of a release last year of 640 frogs. Results from follow-up surveys in October were very encouraging, with a large number of released frogs surviving and thriving in their new home.

Tracking frogs in the wild can be tricky, so water scientists made a high-tech leap by developing a ground-breaking eDNA test which can spot even the slightest genetic trace of an animal from as little as 100 millilitres of sampled water.

The new technique is a critically important tool in the mission to bring the frog back from the brink, with results helping to shed light on the population’s distribution and return to health in the state’s north.

In December 2023, experts took water samples from several stream locations, which they hope contain Booroolong Frog eDNA. Results are expected in the coming months.

“It’s been great to team up with a broad range of agencies and experts who are all passionate advocates for improving our unique ecosystems and environments through science and animal conservation,” said NSW Water Minister, Rose Jackson.

“Booroolong Frogs may be small, but they play a big part in helping us keep tabs on the health of the river system. This species relies on stream habitats and water flows, which means they are a great indicator for monitoring water management decisions.

“Knowledge is power and with an El Niño declared it’s never been more important to use science-based methods to measure how we’re doing with our water management.

“The results from the monitoring program will give us a baseline for the current distribution of the species and will help us make more informed decisions to strike the right balance between meeting the needs of the environment and water users.”

The work to conserve the Booroolong Frog is thanks to collaboration between scientists at the NSW Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water’s Saving our Species program and Water Group, the University of Canberra’s (UC) National eDNA Reference Centre, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, the Australian Museum and local ecologist, Phil Spark.

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