Two new populations of the threatened orange-bellied frog (Geocrinia vitellina) have been discovered in the Blackwood River National Park, south-east of the Margaret River townsite.
Department of Parks and Wildlife conservation officer Christine Fleay said the discovery extends the known range of the orange-bellied frog by 37 per cent – a significant increase for what is one of the most restricted vertebrate species in Australia.
“The discovery of two new populations with over 50 individuals has come at a crucial time, given the other six populations have been steadily declining over the last 10 years,” Ms Fleay said.
“These thumbnail-sized frogs are listed as vulnerable to extinction and are threatened by bushfire, changes in rainfall, damage by feral pigs and burial by eroded sediments.”
She said Parks and Wildlife was taking measures to protect the new populations, including erosion remediation, rubbish clean-up and track redirections and/or closures.
“Parks and Wildlife asks the public to help protect the frogs and their highly-restricted habitat from campfire escapes, litter and sediment erosion by observing signage and only camping at the national park’s designated campsites at Sues Bridge or Warner Glen,” Ms Fleay said.
The orange-bellied frog was first discovered in 1983 and a recovery plan for the species and the closely related white-bellied frog (Geocrinia alba) commenced in 1994, with an updated plan released in 2014.
Ms Fleay said translocation of existing populations is a key action of the plan, which is supported by the department, South West Catchments Council and the National Landcare Program.
“Each year Parks and Wildlife and Perth Zoo staff collect egg masses from wild populations and raise the young in captivity – a process known as head-starting, before releasing them back into the wild the following year,” she said.
“This greatly increases their survival rate as the egg masses and tiny young are highly vulnerable to predation.”