Friday, February 29, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive (if I feel like it)

Today is Leap Day, the International Day of the Frog, and in the course of suggesting how other blogs would be covering it, FrogBlog came up with this:

I expect No Right Turn to have detailed policy analysis on possible legislative action relating to the Maud Island Frog.
This was intriguing, so I thought I'd have a look at it. And it turns out there is legislative action to protect the Maud Island Frog, but its not what you think it is.

First, the Maud island Frog is one of the world's rarest frog species. Like the Tuatara, it's a living fossil, a remnant of proto-frogs from before the age of the dinosaurs:

It does not have webbed feet, but has atavistic tail-wagging muscles although it does not have a tail. The eyes are round, not slit, and there is no external eardrum. It does not go through a tadpole stage, but instead develops totally within a gelatinous capsule derived from an egg, and therefore does not need standing or running water for reproduction.
Currently almost the entire population of Maud Island Frogs - ~4000 out of less than 4500 individuals lives on (you guessed it) Maud Island, in the Marlborough Sounds (which they share with the Kakapo and Takahe). In an effort to prevent a localised environmental catastrophe from wiping out the entire species, DoC has transplanted a population on nearby Motuara Island, and more recently to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (where they seem to be doing well).

According to its entry in the IUCN red list, the major threats to the Maud Island Frog are habitat loss and degradation, predation and competition by introduced species, and its limited range and slow breeding cycle. The legislative framework seems to be dealing well with these threats. The frogs live in predator-free scientific or nature reserves, and as mentioned above steps are being taken to disperse and expand their population. But it also lists another threat: climate change. Climate change is killing frogs, by drying them out and allowing fungal diseases to spread. And with the Maud Island Frog restricted to such a small geographic area, they could very easily be adversely affected.

Which brings us to the legislation. Currently, the government's Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill is before select committee. The bill will help to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and so in a small way help to fight climate change and thereby protect the Maud Island Frog - a point made by Meyt in her Leap Day press release here. So, support the climate change bill; do it for the frogs.