Because of the frog’s precarious status the environment department must place a “special protection zone” around its habitat, but GECO says this zone is sandwiched between two logging coupes and fails to meet a legal requirement that it should be at least 300 metres wide.
“Logging will push this incredibly rare and unique species to the brink of extinction,” says GECO spokesperson Chris Schuringa. “If the government continues to log these forests, then we risk losing these animals forever.”
Mt Jersey was heavily affected during the summer fires and about 88 per cent of the frog’s habitat was burnt, according to the government’s biodiversity impacts report.
Ms Gaborov said little is known about the large brown tree frog, other than they often dig down into the leaf litter – she has found two this way while surveying – and they breed in response to rain.
It is likely one of their main threats is the amphibian chytrid fungus – an infectious disease that has caused extinction and population declines to many frog species worldwide. This fungus can be carried in dirt, and Ms Gaborov is concerned it might get carried into the Mt Jersey area by logging trucks.
“When we’re surveying we wear plastic covers on our shoes but these logging trucks drive straight in from the central highlands with mud on their wheels,” she said.
A spokesperson for the government said the Office of the Conservation Regulator had assessed the special protection zone put in place for timber harvesting, and has found that the measures are appropriate.
After the most recent bushfires there had been an assessment of the large brown tree frog’s population and the creation of artificial temporary ponds for the frogs to shelter in, they said.
A spokesperson for VicForests said it had applied additional stream buffers and protection to potential frog breeding sites.
In good herpetological news this week, forest surveyors from the Conservation Regulator found almost 330 giant burrowing frog tadpoles in ponds in the remote Maramingo area near Genoa, in East Gippsland.
There were concerns the frogs, which are only found in Gippsland and parts of New South Wales, were wiped out after most of their habitat was destroyed during the summer bushfires.
Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.