What's Killing Frogs in Cairns?
Although Cairns is located in a tropical climate and is not far from World Heritage protected rainforests, Cairns itself is rather inhospitable to amphibians. While there are isolated pockets where frogs can still do well (for example, some streets backing onto bush and much of Division One south of Gordonvale), overall, frogs in Cairns in the past 20 years have gone 'down the tubes'.
There are so many reasons why which are listed below:
- CHEMICALS - almost certainly the neonicotinoid group
- excessive levels of parasites from cats and dogs in the environment (see the Threats - Cats page)
- habitat loss for development, particularly medium and high density residential
- modified habitats, particularly the undergrounding and cementing of creeks to create run-off drains
- so-called 'hazard reduction burning' and deliberate arson of parks, reserves and surrounding hillslopes
- a large population of introduced predatory animals (dogs and cats)
- insufficient permanent, clean freshwater sources
- disease and rampant malformations which are being caused/aggravated by chemical use
- the aggressive use of pesticides and herbicides near and in waterways
- climate changes and drought
- road kills
- household accidents such as being squashed in windows, doors, clothes hoists, awnings
- being sprayed with Dettol and other chemicals intended for cane toads (which shouldn' be sprayed on them either)
- lacerations from backyard gardening equipment such as whipper-snippers and hedge trimmers
We have even had frogs turned in to us for care that were tortured and attacked with sticks by school children and burned by adults who threw caustic chemicals on them to get rid of them. Another relocation we were asked to do was to remove the frogs from a marvellous, specially built frog pond. The distraught owner was being threatened by their neighbours who planned to poison all the frogs if they continued calling. Rather than see them killed, they opted to have them taken away. (Frogs are protected wildlife in Australia and the neighbours could have been prosected for poisoning them but that would not restore the lives of the slaughtered frogs.)
During the severe drought from Jan 2000 to Dec 2002, the Rocket frog (Litoria nasuta) completely disappeared from the Cairns area. It took until 2007 before a few isolated pockets of very small numbers started to be seen/heard again in Edmonton and Redlynch and numbers are still low over ten years later. Thankfully there were other areas in FNQ where this species could 'hide out' the drought and emerge during better times.
There are still small numbers of frogs in Cairns but the numbers are just a shadow of what they were in 1998 when this group was first setup! Now that our group is located in Mission Beach, frog decline is obvious here too and we have already picked up three local frogs with cancer and have received many others that appear to have toxic issues.