Apr 11

New Zealand’s Department of Conservation is facing criticism over its plans to use a controversial poison in the habitat of two unique and endangered frog species.

Photo of Archey's frog, dorsal view

Archey’s frog, an unusual and unique New Zealand frog

The poison, known as 1080, is used in New Zealand to eradicate invasive mammals such as possums, rats and stoats, which threaten the country’s native wildlife. Initially developed as an insecticide, 1080 naturally biodegrades in the environment over time and eventually becomes harmless. However, it is highly toxic and has no antidote, and many countries have banned its use.

New Zealand uses 80 to 90% of the world’s 1080, aerially dropping bait laced with the poison. Its use is highly controversial, with critics claiming that it can also kill native species such as birds and frogs.

Unique frogs

The Department of Conservation (DOC) plans to use 1080 on Moehau Mountain, on New Zealand’s North Island. However, one of the main concerns about the planned drop is the potential effects it could have on two unique and endangered frog species, Archey’s frog and Hochstetter’s frog.

Photo of Hochstetter's frog

Hochstetter’s frog is another primitive and unique frog found only in New Zealand

One of only a few surviving species from an ancient frog family, Archey’s frog is considered a ‘living fossil’, with primitive features such as a lack of eardrums or vocal sacs, and muscles to move a tail despite the frog having no tail to move. Unfortunately, this unusual frog is under threat from predation by non-native mammals and by the deadly amphibian disease chytridiomycosis, and is now considered to be Critically Endangered.

Hochstetter’s frog is also a primitive and unique species, and is found in just ten fragmented and isolated populations. Listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN, it is under threat from chytridiomycosis as well as the destruction of its habitat.

Unclear impacts

It is not known for certain whether 1080 has any impact on frogs. The DOC says that the poison has been used previously in areas of frog habitat and that rather than harming the frogs, it has benefitted them by removing predatory mammals.

Last year DOC started a controlled experiment in the Whareorino forest and dropped 1080 in an area where the frogs (Archey’s and Hochstetter’s) had been well monitored and excluded it from another well-monitored area,” said Phil Bishop, a scientist at the University of Otago. “The data has yet to be fully analysed as its still early days and still being collected, but the results are looking good and the frogs seem to be doing as well if not better in the area that received the 1080 drop.”

Photo of common brushtail possum on tree trunk

The common brushtail possum has been introduced to New Zealand, where it is threatening native wildlife

However, others believe that insects may feed on the poisoned bait, and the frogs may therefore ingest the poison when they eat the insects. There are also fears that 1080 could have less direct impacts, with chronic exposure to the poison potentially making the amphibians more vulnerable to disease or affecting their circulatory or nervous systems. This adds to a growing body of research worldwide showing that the non-lethal effects of pesticides can cause considerable harm to wildlife and humans.

Further fears

There is also concern that native birds could be affected by 1080, although others point out that this threat is outweighed by the benefits to the birds of removing non-native predators. Local people are also concerned for the safety of livestock and pets, with dogs being particularly vulnerable to the lethal effects of the chemical.

Some opponents argue that safer, less controversial pest control measures could be used, and accuse the government of self-interest as they own the factory which produces the 1080 pellets.

Photo of Archey's frog, anterior view

Archey’s frog is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Invasive pest mammals comprise an obvious threat to New Zealand biodiversity. But to dismiss out of hand suggestions that 1080 might harm native species through sublethal physiological effects and thereby contribute to long-term population declines is just foolish,” said Bruce Waldman, an expert on New Zealand’s frogs. “Until we know why Archey’s frogs are dying… we cannot just proceed on the assumption that dangers that they incur by exposure to 1080 drops have been sufficiently mitigated. To do proper studies on 1080′s effects on frogs would not be difficult, so why have they not been done?

Despite the controversy, the DOC has stated that the poison bait drop is still to go ahead, with the aim of saving native frogs and birds from invasive predators.

 

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Saviors or villains: controversy erupts as New Zealand plans to drop poison over Critically Endangered frog habitat.

View photos and videos of amphibian species on ARKive and find out more about endangered amphibians at EDGE of Existence – Amphibians.

Find out more about amphibian conservation on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Feb 29

The real purpose of a leap year may be to keep the calendar aligned with the seasons, but at the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, we’d like to believe the day is designed to honor our favorite leapers. To celebrate, we’ve put together some fun facts about frog leaping.

Silverstoneia flotator, leaping

Silverstoneia flotator, leaping

  • Male frogs of the genus Pipa are known to defend their territory by jumping at and then wrestling other males.
  • The New Guineabush frog (Asterophrys turpicola) takes jump attacks one step further: before it jumps at a strange frog, it inflates itself and shows off its blue tongue.
  • Stumpffia tridactyla are normally slow-moving critters, but when they’re startled they can abruptly jump up to 8 inches. That doesn’t sound very far, but these little guys are less than half an inch long!
  • The Fujitree frog (Platymantis vitiensis) may be the leaping stuntman of the frog world. Each time it leaps, it twists in the air – sometimes even 180 degrees – to throw predators off its trail.
Desert rain frog image

Desert rain frog walking

  • The Larut torrent frog (Amolops larutensis) gets its name from a nifty leaping trick: it can jump into a fast-moving stream and back to its usual perch, the underside of a rock, without being affected by the current.
  • The parachuting red-eyed leaf frog (Agalychnis saltator) gets its name from its habit of racing to its mating grounds by jumping from trees with finger-and toe-webbing spread wide.
  • The record for the longest jump by an American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) recorded in a scientific paper is a little over 1.2 metres. But scientists who went to the Calaveras County Fair, which Mark Twain’s short story made famous for frog jumping, found that more than half the competitors bested that record – and one jumped more than 2.1 metres in one leap!
  • The Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t include any frogs for their leaping ability. But it does track human performance in frog jumping (jumping while holding one’s toes). There are records listed for the longest frog jump and the fastest frog jumping over 10 and 100 meters.

 

In honor of leap day celebrations being coordinated globally by Amphibian Ark, the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project made this video for a frog song written by Alex Culbreth.

 

 

Meghan Bartels, Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Nov 17

Survival logo

 Golden frog, Survival character

Name: Golden frog (Mantella aurantiaca)

Stats:

Status - Critically Endangered (CR)

Length - up to 26 mm

Interesting fact:

This poisonous critter has small pale tubes on its belly which can be seen carrying sperm and urine around the body.

Where am I found?

The golden frog can only be found in Madagascar, where it prefers to inhabit areas with a high level of moisture. It can be found in damp, swampy habitats in primary and secondary rainforests.

What do I eat?

The golden frog has an appetite for things that creep and crawl, and will feed on termites, fruit flies, ants and a huge range of other insects.

Golden frog photo

How do I live?

A sociable species, the golden frog lives in groups usually consisting of twice as many males as females. Breeding tends to start after the first heavy rains of the year, and when there is plenty of food. Male golden frogs attract females with their call, which is a series of short notes, each of which includes three short clicks.

The females do not lay their eggs in water, but in damp leaf litter, moss or under bark and rocks next to a water source. Each clutch contains 20 – 60 white eggs, and these are fertilised by the male immediately after laying. The tadpoles hatch out two weeks later and they either wriggle into water or are washed into small pools by heavy rain. Here, they take around 70 days to metamorphose into froglets.

Golden frog photo

Why am I threatened?

The golden frog only lives in a very small, fragmented area of rainforest which is rapidly being destroyed to make way for the expanding human population. Forest fires and collection for the pet trade also pose a threat to this species, and it is at future risk from the chytrid fungus which has killed many amphibians around the world.

Photo of golden frogs being held

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