Amphibian enthusiasts were thrilled with the recent announcement that Australia’s Gold Spotted Bell Frog (Litoria castanea), feared extinct for the past 30 years, still survives in the South Tablelands area of New South Wales. Some years ago I bred a related species, the Green and Gold Bell Frog, L. aurea, (pictured here) at the Bronx Zoo – hopefully the lessons learned by myself and others working with that species will prove useful in the current Gold Spotted Bell Frog recovery effort.
A Bright Spot amid Dim Prospects
The surprising discovery of a small population of the “extinct” Bell Frog, limited to a single stream, was made by a New South Wales conservation officer who was surveying fishes at the time. The promising news came on the heels of a dismal report, released by the IUCN, which estimated that 30-50% of the world’s amphibian species are in danger of imminent extinction. Seven frog species have disappeared from Australia recently, and as many as 120 amphibians worldwide have not been seen in recent years, and may already be gone.
The Gold Spotted Bell Frog is believed to have originally succumbed to habitat loss, pesticides and introduced cats, fishes and foxes. It “returns” to a world plagued by climate change and Chytrid fungus, an emerging amphibian disease that is sweeping across the world and causing local extinctions.
Captive Breeding Efforts
Captive breeding efforts for this frog are underway at the Taronga Zoo, which is also working with the related species I bred years ago, the Green and Gold Bell Frog. It seems that in a mere decade or so the Green and Gold Bell Frog has gone from relatively common to quite scarce. Fortunately, it is proving relatively easy to breed, so the program has great potential, and may serve as a template for rescuing the even rarer Gold-Spotted Bell Frog.
I think there is a lesson for herp keepers to be learned here – study and breed whatever animal catches your interest, as studies of even the most common amphibians and reptiles may have vital importance in the future.
You can learn more about Gold-Spotted Bell Frog natural history here.
Green and Golden Bell Frog images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by LiquidGhoul and Tnarg 12345