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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

26 August 2000

GETTING THE JUMP ON FROG DISEASES


Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has welcomed the start of an international conference to plan ways of dealing with the worldwide decline of frog species from amphibian diseases.

"With over 200 species, Australia has one of the most diverse frog populations in the world, yet a third of our frog species are either endangered or threatened, and six have become extinct.

"The presence of frog species is an important indicator of the health of the environment and declines are a warning as to what may happen to other species in similar ecosystems," Senator Hill said.

"Mysterious declines and disappearances of frogs from even near-pristine areas around the world have been occurring for decades. However, recent advances in knowledge of amphibian diseases such as the chytrid fungus are a key step in developing solutions to the problem.

"Chytrid fungus was first discovered in 1998 from work funded under the Natural Heritage Trust and has now been identified as the cause of many disappearances. It has now been found in North and South America and also linked to the collapse of frog populations there.

"Getting the Jump! On Frog Diseases Conference in Cairns will discuss strategies to lessen the risks to wild amphibians. The main aim of the conference will be to develop practical and efficient conservation and management practices."

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch welcomed the conference and the renewed focus it would bring to protecting precious frog species across Australia.

"Personally, I could not think of a more appropriate location to conduct such a conference and I look forward to seeing the outcomes determined by the experts coming together in Cairns this weekend," he said.

"The Green Tree Frog is synonymous with life here in Tropical North Queensland and is very much a valued part of our unique environment."

The meeting follows the recent publication of a report on Australian frogs that provides the most comprehensive summary of the threats to frog species ever published in Australia.

"Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs summarises the findings and recommendations of specialists from throughout Australia and overseas involved in frog research, management and policy development," Senator Hill said.

"The decline of our precious frog species is obviously a very serious issue, and one which the Government has given a high priority to addressing.

"Under the Natural Heritage Trust, the Government has spent over $1 million on frog recovery projects in the last three years. This includes work on the distinctive Corroboree Frog, wet tropics frog species, as well as frogs from NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia." (See attached summary of Trust-funded frog projects)

Trust-funded frog projects is available in PDF format. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it.

"A significant proportion of this funding has been on investigations into frog disease, which is an area of particular concern.

"The meeting is being hosted by the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre and is being sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia and the Natural Heritage Trust, further signifying the Federal Government's commitment to the protection of our frog species."

Contacts:
Matt Brown (Senator Hill)   (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Anne-Marie Delahunt (Environment Australia)  (02) 6274 2240 or 0412 446 136

The Declines and Disappearances of Australian Frogs report is available on the web at: http://www.biodiversity.environment.gov.au/threaten/information/frogs/frogs.pdf

DATES: 26-29 AUGUST, 2000

VENUE: RADISSON PLAZA HOTEL
PIERPOINT ROAD
CAIRNS, QUEENSLAND

PROGRAM DETAILS AND CONFERENCE INFORMATION:
Internet: www.rainforest-crc.jcu.edu.au/amphibian.asp
Phone: (07) 4042 1246
Fax: (07) 4042 1247

Commonwealth of Australia