Newspaper article: Frogs under threat

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Newspaper article: Frogs under threat

Postby Ann » Mon Aug 06, 2007 8:52 am, ... 21,00.html

Frogs under threat
Article from: The Sunday Tasmanian


August 05, 2007 12:00am

A MAJOR threat to Tasmania's unique frog species has breached the borders of the South-West World Heritage Area for the first time.

New research to be published by Department of Primary Industries and Water zoologist Matthew Pauza has placed the fungal disease chytrid at two sites within the remote national park and up to 14 other sites at its border.

The disease is classified by the Federal Government as a "key threatening process" and was first discovered in northern and north-eastern Tasmania in 2004.

It has been closely linked to the extinction of 34 frog species around the world, including six in Queensland.

Mr Pauza said chytrid had now overtaken habitat destruction and water pollution as the biggest threat to the state's three endemic frog species.

His research focused mainly on the Tasmanian tree frog, which is found only in the remote South-West.

Chytrid has already infected tree frog populations in the Arthur-Pieman region of the North-West and the Lune River area in the South.

"I definitely believe it (chytrid) is a major threat to Tasmania," Mr Pauza said.

"It appears to be highly infectious and pathogenic at high altitude, in cool to moderate climates and areas of higher rainfall and that allows it to thrive across a broad scope of Tasmania."

But while the threat is great, the fight is not lost.

Unlike Northern Queensland, where fungal spores have been carried in streams and infected frogs across huge distances, there is evidence humans are largely to blame for the spread of the disease in Tasmania.

That is because, unlike their mainland cousins, Tasmanian frogs do not breed in streams and are confined to individual wetlands and ponds.

"While you may have localised movements of frogs between wetlands, the greater spread of the disease across mountain ranges and to highland lakes is less easily explained and human facilitated movement appears to be the common denominator," Mr Pauza said.

"If the method of transmission is humans, which I believe it is, then we do have a chance of stopping it and potentially controlling it."

Both diseased sites within the WHA were close to human disturbance, including the Strathgordon Chalets and a power transmission line reserve. The spread could be controlled by developing strict protocols to wash down and disinfect tyres, boots and other equipment when entering and leaving high-risk areas.

At a local level the seemingly harmless practice of kids catching and releasing tadpoles and frogs may also contribute to the spread of the disease.

"It is fine for kids to catch tadpoles and raise them up but it is important that they return the frogs to the sites they collected them from," Mr Pauza said.

Frogs found in shipments of tropical fruit from Queensland should be reported to the Department of Primary Industries and Water because they can carry chytrid and other tropical diseases.

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