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By Gill Baker, Wangaratta Sustainability

For some reason our annual frog cacophony didn’t happen quite as usual last year.  Generally,  in spring  and early summer the garden is alive with froggy voices,  and the  little green  tree frogs,  with suction pads on their paws, investigate our lit windows at night hunting for  insects.  Common Froglets in a nearby swampy area sounded healthy enough, and the  inevitable Pobblebonk bonked its way around the patch, but nothing like our usual frog band.

Now frogs are not everybody’s cup of tea, and the intensity of their mating calls would not necessarily be on most people’s radar, but I was intrigued enough to explore some creeks and wetland areas, and found a dearth of frogs except in the most pristine waterways.

Frogs are well known as expert monitors of environmental conditions (ours as well as theirs),  as they breathe through their skins, which are fairly permeable to substances dissolved in water.  So thought number 1 was the possibility of some sort of pollutant affecting frog populations.  Thought number 2  was that some climatic or other environmental factor was affecting froggy habitats at breeding time when eggs and tadpoles are particularly at risk.  Thought number 3 was that the dreaded chytrid fungus, which is threatening to wipe out the critically endangered Baw Baw frog, is spreading through lowland areas.

Maybe someone out there has some answers?

There are some ways to support our frog populations.  Many schools and other institutions are including ‘wetland’ areas in their landscaping, (there is a super one at CSU’s Thurgoona campus).   Even garden ponds can offer protection for frogs in hot weather. Don’t move frogs from one habitat to another, and hosing down  muddy boots can help to stop the potential spread of the chytrid fungus.

If you come across a frog that is dead or looks sick, and hasn’t obviously been attacked by a predator or car, look carefully. If its skin is rough or peeling, or is alive but its legs are stretched out instead of tucked under its body and seems sluggish or rigid, it may be infected with the chytrid fungus. What to do?  It needs to be isolated so the fungal spores can’t spread, but don’t touch it with bare hands, use plastic .

For further information about what to do next, or threats to frogs, go to the NSW Environment and Heritage website,  www.environment.nsw.gov.au, or Frogwatch at www.frogs.org.au.