« Threat abatement project
Final report for the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, May 2010
Prepared by: Sam Young, Rick Speare, Lee Berger, Lee F. Skerratt & Diana Mendez
About the report
The aim of this project was to complete investigations into Emerging Amphibian Diseases and Disease Surveillance in Queensland, a four-year research programme carried out by the Amphibian Disease Ecology Group at James Cook University. There were three general and 14 specific objectives. The project was a direct continuation of Emerging Amphibian Diseases and Disease Surveillance in Queensland - Stage 1 (January 2006 - January 2007) (Young et al., 2007b). This is the final report for the current project and directly follows on from the first progress report (Young et al., 2007c). All research activities were carried out under an approved Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Scientific Purposes Permit (WISP03866106) and James Cook University Animal Ethics Application (A1085).
Declines and extinctions of amphibian populations have been increasing globally over the past three decades. Over 30 percent of amphibian species are threatened and at least 43 percent are experiencing population declines (IUCN, 2001, 2004; Stuart et al., 2004). Since 1980, rapid declines have been reported in over 400 species, with just over half of these attributed to habitat degradation and overexploitation (IUCN 2001; Stuart et al., 2004). Until recently, in at least 200 of these species declines had been enigmatic, predominantly affecting stream-associated frogs in forests and tropical montane habitats in the Neotropics and Australia (Stuart et al., 2004). Many of these declines have now been linked to the emerging infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, of which the impact on frog populations is thought to represent the most spectacular loss of biodiversity resulting from disease in recorded history (Berger et al., 1998; Bosch et al., 2001; Carey et al., 2003; Daszak et al., 2003; Lips et al., 2006; Schloegel et al., 2006; Skerratt et al., 2007).
Community wildlife care groups exist in many countries throughout the world for the purpose of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. A number of these groups are active in every state within Australia. They play an important but under-utilised role, both directly and indirectly, in wildlife disease surveillance. The Cairns Frog Hospital (CFH) is a small, non-profit community wildlife group that has been receiving injured and diseased amphibians from the public since 1998. Information has been collected by the CFH about cases, individuals have been treated with a view towards recovery and return to the wild, and limited diagnostic pathology has been carried out. A retrospective analysis of submission data from the CFH over a six-year period, from January 1999 through to December 2004, has been carried out as part of this study, which also involves investigating an immunodeficiency-like wasting syndrome in the white-lipped tree frog, Litoria infrafrenata.