The Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been immortalized in a stage show!
The thoughtful thespians at Perseverance Primary School on French Island decided to dedicate this year’s annual school community concert to the critically endangered marsupial. The School, led by head teacher Toni, have been learning about EBB’s all year and formed a special partnership with Zoos Victoria which even included helping us monitor the success of released bandicoots earlier in the year.
Complete with dancing, singing and even a Bob Marley song the concert delighted and surprised the packed community hall. Important conservation messages were flying as thick and fast as the roses on stage when the final curtain was drawn.
Zoos Victoria had three staff members in the VIP seating, they were Michelle Cooper, Robbie Russo and Tom Colcott and all gave rave reviews!
What an incredible 24 hours it has been! We arrived on the mountain top and began the trek into the area marked by our field team. These frogs are moving fast in this cracking weather – calling and depositing eggs right under our noses! It wasn’t long before we were on our bellies searching through the substrate for an elusive egg mass.
The field team, consisting of Jet and Heather, have been incredible! Whilst we’ve been busy setting up the ‘Baw Baw Bunker’ at the zoo, these guys have had their ears to the ground (literally) trying to pinpoint the exact location of the males in the underground seepage lines they call home. This has been a massive help for Damian and I as we came straight up from the zoo and were ready to hit the ground running knowing exactly where to search for the egg masses from the moment we arrived. Actually it wasn’t that fast… We spent a whole day checking site after site looking for an egg mass, while some of the male frogs looked on quizzically pondering why we were searching through their homes!
We were about to call it a day when we decided to search one last site for an egg mass. We saw the fluro flagging tape that identified another promising location (Jet and Heather marked each spot that they heard calling males over recent days). Moving aside the ferns and fallen debris I maneuvered my arm into the underground, trying to delicately move aside sludgy sections of substrate. I was losing hope when I decided to check one last crevice and that’s when I felt it – a jelly blob a little bit smaller than a flat tennis ball. It felt firm and a little crispy like cellophane on top. I scooped it up and as I brought it up to the surface it revealed the egg mass we were all hoping for – a big one! Egg masses can range in size and often have between 60 to 150 fertilized eggs inside. Frogs have to produce them in such large numbers because through predation and all the other trials of life many of them don’t make it to adulthood.
No one really knows how many do go on to contribute to the next population by growing up and reproducing themselves but in all likelihood it is a very small percentage. So basically the bigger and healthier the egg mass, the better chance we have of nurturing each one through their life cycle and into adult frogs!
So I scooped up the egg mass and popped it into our special esky to maintain the cool temperature the eggs need along with a little bit of water to keep it moist. Then it was back to the car and straight back to Melbourne Zoo with no time to waste!
We arrived back at the zoo and set up the eggs up in the bunker (giving high fives to staff along the way). The Frog team will keep a close eye on the eggs whilst Damian and I head straight back to the mountain in the hope that we can collect another two egg masses! Exciting times! I’ll touch base again soon, but in the meantime spread the word! #canyouhearthecall #Bawbawfrog #fightingextinction
Our first Seal the Loop Action Day took place at Warrnambool and Blairgowrie last Saturday!
The day went off with a huge bang! Over 250 volunteers joined forces across two locations (Warrnambool and Rye) to celebrate our beautiful coastline and to clean it up. The overwhelming feedback from the day was fantastic! The thing that stood out most was the community spirit that was palpable at both sites. Everyone from pet dogs to politicians showed up and got their hands dirty under our fighting extinction banner!
This is ‘Team Seal the Loopies’ showing how it’s done! Rubbish goes in the bag and BOOM! Another potential entanglement for marine wildlife taken care of!
Keeper Sophie and Gordo the Seal. Find out more about Seal the Loop here
We got the call from the field team that things are looking good for a collection of Baw Baw eggs – in fact we were told that the guys were lucky enough to hear a Baw Baw chorus!
What exactly is a Baw Baw chorus you ask? Well, it’s a number of male frogs strumming away, singing their little hearts out to impress the girl frogs. News from the field is that they heard 15 males calling within a 20m radius – how incredible, especially for a critically endangered frog! I think they found the hotspot!
Below is the first ever recording of a Baw Baw Frog call, thanks to legendary frog researcher Murray Littlejohn.
It was recorded in the 1960s when humans were all listening to the Beatles and frog choruses on Mount Baw Baw were common place. Sounds incredible doesn’t it? These frogs have been a part of this environment for so long it makes us even more determined to save the species!
As the calls are coming in thick and fast since the weather has improved a little, it sounds to me that there is likely to be some egg masses being deposited soon, so we decided to pack up the truck and head out there yesterday afternoon.
Some of the gear we have on board:
- Swabs to test any frogs we find for chytrid– a nasty fungus affecting frog populations all over the world
- Bottles and equipment for water testing- We need to make sure we get the conditions at the zoo perfect for the eggs when we bring them in
- An esky– not for drinks but for the eggs themselves. If you remember last week’s blog it gets pretty icy up on Mt Baw Baw, so we need to have a good esky to keep the cool temperatures perfect for the egg mass’ return to Melbourne Zoo.
The field team have the radios and other gear we need up there already. I had to pack some good work wear as well- as you can see below, if we want to hear the frogs when they head down into the seepage lines they live in, we are going to have to get dirty!
Well I better go and get settled on the mountain top. I’ll touch base with you again by the end of the week. Wish us luck!
We have teams out in the field and on site here at Melbourne Zoo working towards a very exciting possibility… the collection and raising of Baw Baw Frog eggs!
Unfortunately this alpine frog is in real trouble in the wild. They are critically endangered and to help save them we are working hard to develop quality husbandry techniques to raise and breed them here at the zoo so they are not lost forever. Our field consultants are out on Mt Baw Baw in search of this cryptic critter and news just in is that the frogs certainly don’t make it easy for us to find them… check out where they live!
Our field team are out trudging through the mud and listening out for their call… and you can follow the latest happenings on Twitter with #canyouhearthecall! But I’ll tell you all about that next time, because something very exciting just landed at Melbourne Zoo… The Baw Baw Bunker!
To get the husbandry right we need a new purpose-built enclosure that will allow us to maintain the chilly temperatures that the frogs are used to in the wild! I’ll keep you in the loop with the search for the Baw Baw frogs as my team and I complete our preparations at the zoo and the field team report back. Looking forward to sharing more good news soon!
Hi to all you budding birders out there! Hope you’re having a great Bird Week. It always amazes me what you can find when you have a good look around you…
New Holland Honeyeaters are among the most prolific of birds at the zoo thanks to all the nectar providing plants. This nest was shown to me by my colleague Kwai and was situated near the water. They will often choose dense vegetation to nest in but this one is quite exposed.
This Red Wattlebird nest is uncharacteristically low to the ground at about 1.5 m. The books tell me they usually nest between 3m and 20m up! I always say that there are no hard and fast rules in nature.
Although Song Thrushes are a European introduction they are not an aggressive species. They are generally heard uttering a melodious call or mimicking other birds but they are not often seen. The nest lining reminds me of recycled paper and I’m sure that their eggs rank among the prettiest! This nest is well hidden but within arm’s reach of the average zoo visitor.
The name Willie Wagtail is very apt for a bird that can never sit still. The only time they do is when they are sitting on their eggs! They are master nest builders and have beautiful dappled eggs. I managed to embarrass this bird by taking a picture when his beak was full of cobweb!