Judy Edwards

Judy Edwards

Former Minister for the Environment; Science

    Edwards steps up frog research in face of cane toad invasion

    23/08/2005 12:00 AM

    Perth Zoo has joined the fight against a worldwide crisis threatening more than 1,800 frog species in a race to save local species from the onslaught of the invading cane toad and a devastating fungal disease.

    Environment and Science Minister Judy Edwards today announced that the State Government would provide Perth Zoo with $450,000 over four years to establish a frog breeding and research program. The funding is on top of the $2.5million the State Government has committed to stemming the invasion of cane toads into Western Australia from the Northern Territory.

    The zoo’s research program will focus on developing successful captive breeding and management techniques for frogs and establishing ‘insurance’ or back-up populations of selected WA species, should that become necessary.

    “By developing this expertise we hope to be able to provide a safety net for threatened frog species if their populations collapse in the wild as a result of disease such as chytrid fungus or cane toads,” the Minister said.

    “Frogs are very good ‘indicators’ of the health of our ecosystems and this latest initiative is in line with the Government’s initiatives to conserve our environment.

    “The primary focus of the program will be South-West frog species threatened by fungal disease and frogs of the Kimberley region that may be adversely affected by cane toads.”

    Dr Edwards said frogs were disappearing around the world with the decimation of frog species and frog populations attributed to disease, habitat destruction, environmental degradation and introduced predators and pests such as the cane toad.

    Australia has recently lost two frog species to Chytrid fungus - a global problem - and 52 per cent of the nation’s remaining threatened frog species are infected with the disease.

    ”The aim of this new program at Perth Zoo is to provide us with the capacity to breed threatened species for release into secure habitats should this become necessary, as well as the capacity to maintain back-up populations of threatened WA frog species,” the Minister said.

    “Other goals include developing the capacity to freeze and store sperm and embryos of threatened WA frog species and contributing to research on the biological control of the introduced cane toad.”

    In an Australasian first, Perth Zoo recently established an on-site reproductive biology unit to freeze and store gametes and embryos of threatened species, including amphibians.

    Dr Edwards said amphibians provided the clearest example of an entire class of organisms facing extinction, underlining the importance of the frog research and breeding program.

    The zoo would be working in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Land Management and other researchers at the WA Museum, University of WA and Murdoch University.

    Minister's office: 9220 5050