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Fake Mud Helps Critically Endangered White-Bellied Frogs Breed In Australia

The white-bellied frog is critically endangered in Australia and the Perth Zoo is trying to bolster its populations.

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Artificial mud designed to mimic the natural muddy creeks that are home to the white-bellied frogs (Geocrinia alba) is credited with helping the Perth Zoo in Australia to successfully breed the critically endangered amphibians. The zoo and Western Australia’s Parks and Wildlife Service have been breeding the frog with the help of the mud concoction and now Dr. Peter Mawson, the zoo’s director of animal health and research, wants to share the mud recipe with others so it can help save endangered species in other areas.

"We are looking at writing this up into a short paper with technical notes so that people can see what the basic recipe is," he said. "It's a bit like sharing your cooking recipes in a cook book.”


Several factors have contributed to the decline of the white-bellied frog, Mawson said, including agricultural and tourism development along the Margaret River region that has destroyed their habitat, turning slow moving creeks, their native habitat, into fast moving channels. Because of this, the scientists didn’t want to further disturb that critical habitat, hence the creation of the mud.

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"If you have got a threatened species that hasn't got much critical habitat left, the last thing you want to be doing is digging it up, even if it is a bucket full at a time,” Mawson told ABC News Australia.

The zoo recently released 139 captive bred adults back into their natural habitat in hopes they will breed in the wild. They will be checked again in a year to see how they are doing.


The white-bellied frog is no bigger than a human fingernail in size and inhabits a 130 square kilometer range between the Margaret River and Augusta, Western Australia. It was discovered in the early 1980s and fully described in 1989. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List and the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation has the amphibian listed as endangered under the Australian government’s The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999.

Hopefully the little white-bellied frog can recover and the zoo’s efforts are successful.