Surveys over the six years have shown that there are only an estimated 400 Green and Golden Bell frogs and 80 Growling Grass frogs left in the system. This is due to habitat loss and the presence of an infectious fungi, the Chytrid fungus.
Greening Australia has been working with the Love Our Lakes team around the Gippsland Lakes to improve the vegetation and condition of the fringing wetlands of the lakes and in that time have been learning to understand the Bell frogs and begin to help look after these small populations.
Working with the National Bell Frog recovery team, particularly through the drought, has helped our team know where the important refuge areas are around the lakes and works have been implemented to see these refuge wetlands increase in size.
Newly established breeding ponds have been a great success this year with over 100 tadpoles getting to the metamorphosis stage and emerging as frogs. This is at a unique location that only exists around the Gippsland Lakes where both Bell Frog species co-exist together and both species have been identified as increasing in numbers.
As this has been during a drought period, this is seen as a great success for the team. “The landholder plays a critical part here”, explains Martin Potts, Greening Australia Project Manager. “His support, enthusiasm and practical site management has made for it being such a successful year”.
New sites are currently being mapped around the lakes that will hopefully be enhanced in similar ways and local remnant populations can expand their habitat range and increase numbers into the thousands it is hoped.
One of these new projects is within the Macleod Morass managed by Parks Victoria where two known remaining populations of approximately 20 Bell frogs are going to have habitat plots established of their favourite wetland plants. The plots will be excluded from predators like the European Carp.
This is to help the frogs expand their home range and find new sites to live in the future. “We are literally trying to give the frogs ‘room to move’ and ensure new populations can emerge and the species will survive and thrive into the future,” explains Martin.
Hearing the frogs singing again after the recent rains around the lakes after such a long three years has been a great joy that many of the local landholders to the Gippsland Lakes have been celebrating as a sign of a hopeful good period ahead and we are all reminded of the importance of frogs to our ecological health of the land.
New frog habitat plots are being generously funded by Ian Potter Trust and Ross Family Trust.