Zoos Victoria is making strides in its fight against wildlife extinction, with the release of more than 3000 eggs of the critically endangered Southern Corroboree Frog into the wild.

Last month’s egg release onto the Mt Kosciuszko National Park was the biggest release to date in the recovery efforts by teams from Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, along with Taronga Zoo.

Melbourne Zoo amphibian specialist Damian Goodall said the eggs were distributed across 22 disease-free enclosures, as well as the frog’s natural habitat of sphagnum bogs.

“Last summer, there were only six males calling in this area,” Mr Goodall said. “But we’ve had such a successful breeding season this year and, thanks to a combined efforts between Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Taronga Zoo, we’ve released 3000 eggs in this area.”

Mr Goodall said the enclosures had been constructed by the recovery teams to give the Southern Corroboree Frog a chance of thriving, away from the deadly Chytrid fungus that has ravaged the population to the brink of extinction.

“We’ve set up artificial tubs to release the eggs into, in an area on Mt Kosciuszko where sphagnum bogs are prevalent and Chytrid fungus is not.

“The tubs will freeze over throughout winter, with the tadpoles surviving under the thick layer of ice that will develop on top. Come spring, they’ll start metamorphing and will be able to crawl out of these tubs and back into their natural habitat.”

Chytrid fungus, a disease introduced to Mt Kosciuszko National Park in the 1980s, is carried and spread by a species of native frog. These frogs have been moving into the sphagnum bogs and infecting some of the most vulnerable species, such as the Southern Corroboree Frog and the Baw Baw Frog.

“Corroboree Frogs are exceptionally vulnerable to Chytrid fungus, which is why we’ve seen such a rapid decline in their population. If it wasn’t for these release sites scattered across Mt Kosciusko they would be completely extinct by now.”

Mr Goodall said a selection of tadpoles were being kept from each of groups at each of the zoos to continue to manage the captive population, lower risk and manage genetic diversity of the frogs.

“Breeding these frogs in captivity has been very challenging, and over the last 10 years a lot of work has gone into developing the current breeding program.

“However, the past few years have seen a 100% success rate of raising Southern Corroboree Frog from tadpole through to healthy frogs, so it’s really pleasing to be up here releasing this many eggs, and giving this frog a real fighting chance,” Mr Goodall said.

Story Source: Zoos Victoria