Backyard frog-friendly


Matthew Lamb, of Wanneroo, with a motorbike frog.
Picture: Martin Kennealey                                              d449943
Matthew Lamb, of Wanneroo, with a motorbike frog. Picture: Martin Kennealey d449943

The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife says hot weather, loss of freshwater habitats and the spread of the Chytrid fungus have had a toll on frog populations in WA.

The foundation is encouraging people to make garden ponds that could attract motorbike, western banjo and slender tree frogs through its free Backyard Buddies program.

Each month the foundation sends a Backyard Buddies email (B-mail) with tips to make backyards inviting and safe for native animals.

“Water is incredibly important for Australia’s wildlife, especially our huge variety of frogs,” chief executive Susanna Bradshaw said.

“A pond can offer an easy, permanent water source for your local amphibian buddies and will also benefit lots of other native animals too.

“Australia is home to over 200 species of frogs that are found nowhere else in the world. Australia also has one of the highest rates of amphibian extinction in the world, so anything you can do around Perth to provide habitat for them, will be a big help.

“Australian frogs are facing threats from the devastating Chytrid fungus, water pollution, drought, predation from introduced pests and more.

“Their numbers haven’t plummeted like this since the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

People need licences to keep frogs as pets, but Wanneroo residents Leanne and Matthew Lamb said they had about 12 to 15 wild frogs living around their garden.

“It sounds like a lake – if you provide a water source, they just come,” she said.

Mr Lamb said frogs, which eat midges and other insects, hid throughout the day, but started croaking after dark and people could find them using torches.

“Their whole life is in our back garden,” he said.

“They form their own little habitats and have their own little spots and territories.”

Ms Bradshaw said frogs were great to have around and their presence indicated a healthy ecosystem

“They are very sensitive to chemicals and environmental degradation; don’t touch frogs as any sunscreen or insect repellent on your skin can make them sick,” she said.

“We strongly advise that you do not relocate frogs or tadpoles as you could unintentionally be spreading the deadly Chytrid fungus.

“While not all frogs live around ponds, they all need a water source to reproduce and keep their porous skin moist.

“One of the best ways to work out what species of frog you have in your garden is by simply listening to their call and checking it with an app or online.

“There are a couple of frog ID apps that you can download including Frogs of Australia for iPhones and Frogs Field Guide for any device.”

To sign up for B-mail and download a free factsheet about building a frog pond, visit www.backyardbuddies.net.au.

How to make a frog pond in 10 easy steps:

1. Decide on the type of pond, such as fibreglass, hard plastic mould or freeform pond liner. Even an unused swimming pool can be converted into a pond.

2. Choose a position in a natural depression that is roughly 2/3 in the shade and 1/3 in the sun.

3. If possible, build the pond before some decent rain, to improve the pond water quality and increase the chances of frogs finding the pond.

4. Dig a hole and line with sand. The sand helps make the pond level and protect it from punctures. Make sure the pond fits snuggly in the hole and fill in any gaps with soil or sand.

5. Always rinse and clean anything going into the pond as frogs are very sensitive to chemicals. Add a layer of small, clean pebbles or gravel to the bottom of the pond.

6. Next place several different species of (preferably native) aquatic plants and work out where to position them.

7. Turn the hose on low and fill up the pond. If using mains water, the chlorine in the water will usually need to evaporate over a few days before frogs will use it.

8. While the pond is filling, plant some natives around the pond. Try to use a wide variety of grasses, sedges, and small shrubs to suit a variety of different frogs. Rocks and logs around and in the pond will complete the habitat. A stick draped across the water will help the frogs climb in and out.

9. Buy algae flakes from most pet stores to feed tadpoles to help them get enough food when the pond is new. You can also feed them lettuce and spinach. After a few weeks the pond will be able to naturally provide food for tadpoles.

10. Be patient as it may take a few months before local frogs find the new pond.