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Southern bell frog recovery is a real ART form

News release
30 January 2023

Assisted Reproductive Technology, or ART, is a key element of an innovative and unique project, aiming to reduce the extinction risk of the nationally Vulnerable (EPBC Act) southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis) in the lower-Murray. The science behind the technique is being trialed in a world-first for the species and early results are pointing to a highly successful outcome.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu, along with partners, have received funding from the Australian Government’s Environment Restoration Fund to deliver the Assisted Reproduction and Reintroductions for Southern Bell Frog Recovery project. This project is working in conjunction with an existing community-led project called “Help the Southern Bell Frog bounce back” to reduce the species’ extinction risk.

Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu Biodiversity Project Officer Sam Sutherland explains more.

“Southern bell frog populations have declined in abundance throughout their range in the lower-Murray, and they disappeared from many areas of the Coorong and Lower Lakes during the millenium drought.

“This new project is supporting an existing captive breeding program at Clayton Bay, and undertaking activities to facilitate reintroduction of the species at sites in the Coorong and Lower Lakes. We are also developing ART techniques to enhance genetic diversity of future captive-bred individuals.

“We are working with the Clayton Bay Community Association, Clayton Bay Nursery and Environment Group, Peter Mirtschin, Aquasave Nature Glenelg Trust, and community volunteers from the Help the Southern Bell Frog bounce back project to upgrade the outdoor breeding facilities at Clayton Bay. We will also be setting up at least one other outdoor breeding facility at another location.

“The ART element of the project is helping us preserve genetic diversity through cryopreservation of sperm, also known as bio-banking. The bio-banked sperm can be used for future genetic management and ensuring population sustainability.

“We have brought over world-leading experts from the Universities of Newcastle and Canberra to trial and refine the ART methodologies in the southern bell frog. They have also trained staff from Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu, veterinarians from Zoos SA, personnel from Aquasave Nature Glenelg Trust, and other key stakeholders in these techniques. This will give us the capacity within South Australia to use this technology into the future.

“Early results of the ART trials have been incredibly positive, with John and Simon Clulow from the Universities of Newcastle and Canberra respectively, already successfully obtaining abundant, high-quality sperm from multiple males, cryopreserving the sperm (below -190°C), thawing, and successfully bringing high numbers of viable sperm back to life. In fact, we have already sent a small number of cryopreserved straws of sperm from two individuals to the Ian Potter Australian Wildlife Biobank in Melbourne, for long-term storage,” she said.

Keep an eye on the Landscapes Hills and Fleurieu website for project updates and information – (under Nature Projects).

Project partners include Murraylands and Riverlands Landscape Board, Aquasave – Nature Glenelg Trust, University of Newcastle, University of Canberra, Clayton Bay Nursery and Environment Group, Clayton Bay Community Association and Zoos South Australia.

This project is supported with funding from the Australian Government.

Southern bell frog recovery is a real ART form

More information

Communications Coordinator

8391 7500