The Kroombit tinker frog

Harry Hines
QPWS

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The Department of Environment and Science’s Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) have commenced a collaborative project to undertake captive breeding of the critically endangered Kroombit tinker frog (Taudactylus pleione). This comes on the back of a successful captive breeding trial using the closely related Eungella tinker frog (T. liemi), by Professor Jean-Marc Hero (formerly of Griffith University), Dr Ed Meyer (consultant ecologist) and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

In early February 2018, Ed Meyer and Harry Hines, Senior Conservation Officer QPWS, undertook a field trip to Kroombit Tops National Park to collect a small number of tinker frogs for captive breeding. We focused our efforts on finding an adult female but were unable to locate one (due in part to the very wet, cold and windy conditions prevailing at this time). We did however locate and collect an indeterminate, possibly subadult female and an adult male on this trip. A subsequent collecting trip in March 2018, with Saskia Lafebre and Kimberly Revelly from Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS), Harry Hines of QPWS and Ben Revelly (a QPWS volunteer), resulted in the collection of a second indeterminate individual and a partially gravid adult female. Animals collected from the wild were carefully transported back to a dedicated husbandry facility at Currumbin within 48 hours of capture. They have all settled in to their new home and are eating well. We are hopeful that the adult female will develop a full complement of eggs over the coming months with a view to breeding in spring.

 Kroombit tinker frog -  Taudactylus pleione  (Ed Meyer)

Kroombit tinker frog - Taudactylus pleione (Ed Meyer)

Amphibian chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease responsible for declines and disappearances of frogs across the globe, is a major threat to the tinker frog species both in the wild and in captivity. The preceding work with the captive population of Eungella tinker frogs at CWS, developed safe treatment protocols to rid adult and subadult tinker frogs of amphibian chytrid fungus. In keeping with these protocols, treatment of Kroombit tinker frogs for chytrid commenced in the field, 12 hours after capture. Pretreatment chytrid infection status was assessed by carefully swabbing the flanks and ventral surfaces of the frogs and subsequent DNA analyses. After swabbing, each frog was treated with a 10 minute bath in an antifungal solution. This same treatment was repeated every 24 hours for 10 days after capture. Analysis of skin swabs of the frogs immediately post treatment and in subsequent weeks, has shown that all four animals collected from the wild are now chytrid free.

Depending on the sex of the subadults collected in February/March, additional animals may be collected from the wild this spring. The Kroombit tinker frog husbandry team will regularly assess the progress of captive frogs and evaluate the need for additional animals as required. In the longer term, we hope to release captive bred animals back to the wild.

Fitzroy Basin Association (FBA) helped finance this important project and have supported survey and monitoring of threatened frogs at Kroombit Tops over many years. Their ongoing support of this project and other conservation work at Kroombit Tops (in particular feral animal control) is critical to the continued survival of the Kroombit tinker frog. Other important contributors to this project include present and former staff of CWS, including Michael Vella, Saskia Lafebre, Natalie Hill and Matt Hingley. Department of Environment and Science staff (past and present) and numerous volunteers have also contributed over many years to our understanding of the distribution and abundance of the Kroombit tinker frog, its status, and the need for captive breeding. Thanks are also owed to the local QPWS staff for use of the barracks (warm, dry and mostly leech free!) and their ongoing efforts in controlling feral animals at Kroombit Tops.