Saving Native Species: white-bellied frog

The white-bellied frog (Anstisia alba) is a critically endangered frog species with a very limited distribution in the lower South West corner of Western Australia.  In fact, the combined area of habitat it occupies is less than 2km2

The white-bellied frog grows to 25 mm – no bigger than an adult thumbnail – and as its name suggests, has a distinguishing white belly.

The problem

Between 2007 and 2018, 62 of the 102 known naturally occurring sub-populations of the species went extinct – in many cases as a result of sites becoming too dry for the species due to reduced rainfall associated with climate change.  This drying trend and the reduction in suitably wet habitat sites is expected to continue.

In 2019, the species was upgraded from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Critically Endangered’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

According to ‘Australia: State of the Environment Report 2021‘ Australia continues to have one of the highest rate of species decline among countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Over 100 Australian species are listed as ‘Extinct’ or ‘Extinct in the Wild’ under Australian national, state or territory legislation. Our biodiversity continues to be in decline with ramifications for human health, wellbeing and economic prosperity. 

What we’re doing about it

With funding support from the Australian Government’s Saving Native Species grants, South West NRM has joined forces with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in a 15-month project designed to rescue the future of the species.

We’ll identify four sites where the white-bellied frog was previously known to inhabit but are today extinct as a result of the sites becoming too dry for successful breeding. 

Two of the sites will be used as rehydration trial sites and two as reference sites.

Soil moisture monitoring probes will be installed at each site to allow for the hydration status of the site to be monitored.

Irrigation systems, consisting of 5,000l water tank, solar powered pump, irrigation controller and sprinklers will be installed to systematically rehydrate the sites as needed to create suitable habitats for breeding of the frogs.

We’ll be recording the amount of water used along with other project costs to assess future financial viability of the method to inform decisions on any future replication of the project outcomes. 

If successful, we expect this rehydration technique will improve the trajectory of this critically endangered species.

Project Partners

This project received grant funding from the Australian Government Saving Native Species Program.

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