Backyard ‘frog hotels’ hoped to help species recover from East Gippsland bushfires

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Conservationists are urging people to build ‘frog hotels’ in their backyards to support frog species in East Gippsland.

More than half of the region was burned in the 2019-2020 bushfires, forcing many frogs to move to urban areas due to habitat loss.

Bryce Watts-Parker, bush management and community engagement manager for the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (EGCMA), said backyards were a lifeline for frogs.

“We’ve seen a lot of frogs in people’s gardens because that’s where there’s unburnt vegetation, there’s a lot of food, and people are making that habitat for them,” Mr Watts said. – Parker.

The green and golden bell frog is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.(Provided: Bryce Watts-Parker)

“[They’ve] enabled the frogs not only to survive the fires, but also to repopulate and move around in the surrounding environment.”

Recreate habitat

EGCMA promotes frog hotels to locals, to build temporary habitat for frogs in areas without wetlands.

Structures can be constructed using a waterproof container or pot, soil, native fern species, and PVC pipe, to mimic the natural environment.

Frog hotel close-up
A small model frog sits in a PVC pipe in a frog hotel at the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.(ABC GippslandNatasha Schapova)

Ferns help create a humid climate while pipes provide shelter for frogs.

The hotels cater to frogs with greater climbing abilities, including the green and golden tree frog, brown tree frog, Peron’s tree frog, southern tree frog, whistling tree frog, and howling tree frog.

Far East Gippsland is unique in that frogs from New South Wales and other parts of Victoria also frequent the area.

Hissing tree frog
A piping tree frog sits on a rock in East Gippsland.(Provided: Bryce Watts-Parker)

“Frog hotels create a habitat that allows frogs to take shelter throughout the day, so it provides a humid microclimate. So when it’s hot, the frogs have a nice, cool, safe place to stay. “said Mr. Watts-Parker.

“It also provides protection from predators that might be outside like kookaburras and potentially pets as well.”

Involve the community

Bec Hemming, acting CEO of EGCMA, said the project aims to raise community awareness of the role of frogs in the environment.

“It’s a way to involve the community and show the community that frogs are really important to our waterways,” she said.

EGCMA CEO Bec Hemming talks about frog hotels.
Bec Hemming says frog hotels can be built in backyards or in the bush.(ABC GippslandNatasha Schapova)

Mr Watts-Parker said frogs were used as biological indicators to gauge the quality of waterways as they reacted to pollution, lack of vegetation and chemicals.

“Frogs are generally thought of as a canary in the coal mine. If something starts to go wrong, you’ll notice the frog populations disappearing,” he said.

Although the bushfires ravaged the frogs’ habitats, populations recovered due to heavy rainfall in the area which accelerated breeding.

tree frog
Heavy rains in East Gippsland allowed the frogs to breed and restore their population.(Provided: Bryce Watts-Parker)

The far east of Gippsland receives around 1000mm of rainfall annually.

“The frog populations have recovered very well after the fires, their numbers have exploded,” Mr Watts-Parker said.

“It may have been because we had a lot more water and also a lot more food available to them.”

EGCMA also encourages locals to monitor frogs and other wildlife using the iNaturalist app.

The app allows users to photograph animals and upload them to the server, where they can be identified and used for research.

“We also hope to…encourage people to engage in citizen science with a variety of other species like birds and turtles…any species that are really important to our waterways,” Watts said. – Parker.

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