Rare frog given conservation sanctuary

Hochstetter’s frog population now given a chance at long-term survival.

Hochstetter’s frog population now given a chance at long-term survival.

RARE FROG: A 400-hectare area near Te Puke, home to a small population of Hochstetter’s frogs, has been classified as a conservation sanctuary, allowing the frogs to be protected and giving them a chance at long-term survival. There are believed to be around 200 individuals at the site, giving them a conservation status of nationally critical, one step away from extinction. Picture by G Shirley

A RARE native frog’s former quarry habitat near Te Puke has been classed as a conservation sanctuary, allowing it to be protected and giving it a chance at long-term survival.

Twenty-four years ago, a volunteer discovered the Hochstetter’s frog in the 400-hectare Otawa block near Te Puke during a Forest & Bird walk. The chance discovery led to a long-standing conservation battle.

The area was quarried from the 1960s to 2009, which posed a major threat to the habitat, and Forest & Bird was later accused of deliberately putting the frog there.

The frogs’ chief champions, the local Forest & Bird branches, were blockaded and accused of trespassing by the quarry owner.

Forest & Bird’s central North Island conservation manager Al Fleming had the air in his vehicle’s tyres released on one visit.

“Members from both Te Puke and Tauranga have fought tenaciously for the welfare of this rare and beautiful frog,” Mr Fleming said.

“Without their combined efforts the Otawa frog population would have been destroyed by the quarry owner years ago.”

Hochstetter’s frogs are unique to New Zealand, like the kiwi and kakapo. They belong to an ancient genus called Leiopelma, which split off from other frog species around the time of the dinosaurs, and exhibit many strange and primitive traits, such as being voiceless, lacking external ears, and hatching as tiny froglets instead of tadpoles.

Hochstetter’s frogs are divided into 19 genetically distinct populations. The Otawa population is believed to be the smallest, at about 200 individuals, and has been identified as nationally critical, one step away from extinction.

The quarrying ceased in 2009 but the land is still unstable and human disturbance is an issue.

The tiny frogs can be crushed by walkers or passing vehicles.

Despite all these hardships, the population of frogs has persisted.

A RARE native frog’s former quarry habitat near Te Puke has been classed as a conservation sanctuary, allowing it to be protected and giving it a chance at long-term survival.

Twenty-four years ago, a volunteer discovered the Hochstetter’s frog in the 400-hectare Otawa block near Te Puke during a Forest & Bird walk. The chance discovery led to a long-standing conservation battle.

The area was quarried from the 1960s to 2009, which posed a major threat to the habitat, and Forest & Bird was later accused of deliberately putting the frog there.

The frogs’ chief champions, the local Forest & Bird branches, were blockaded and accused of trespassing by the quarry owner.

Forest & Bird’s central North Island conservation manager Al Fleming had the air in his vehicle’s tyres released on one visit.

“Members from both Te Puke and Tauranga have fought tenaciously for the welfare of this rare and beautiful frog,” Mr Fleming said.

“Without their combined efforts the Otawa frog population would have been destroyed by the quarry owner years ago.”

Hochstetter’s frogs are unique to New Zealand, like the kiwi and kakapo. They belong to an ancient genus called Leiopelma, which split off from other frog species around the time of the dinosaurs, and exhibit many strange and primitive traits, such as being voiceless, lacking external ears, and hatching as tiny froglets instead of tadpoles.

Hochstetter’s frogs are divided into 19 genetically distinct populations. The Otawa population is believed to be the smallest, at about 200 individuals, and has been identified as nationally critical, one step away from extinction.

The quarrying ceased in 2009 but the land is still unstable and human disturbance is an issue.

The tiny frogs can be crushed by walkers or passing vehicles.

Despite all these hardships, the population of frogs has persisted.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Poll

  • Voting please wait...
    Your vote has been cast. Reloading page...
    Do you support the recent pay equity deal for aged care and disability support staff?