Kathy Potter, Frog and Tadpole Study Group of NSW
Ways to hop to it and encourage them into your garden
Frogs are wonderful creatures with an amazing range of adaptations and breeding strategies to help them survive. Australia has more than 240 species of native frogs. Sadly though, they’re not doing so well in urban environments, where habitat loss, pollution, feral animals and disease are all lined up against them. The good news is anyone can help our frogs to survive by creating a space that meets their three simple needs: water, shelter and safety.
Frogs need water to survive though they don’t usually live in the water – they mostly use it for breeding. This means frogs will be attracted to water bodies that suit their breeding strategies. For the Striped Marsh Frog, one of the most common species in urban Sydney, any water they can climb into is suitable. Striped Marsh Frogs are prolific breeders, laying eggs all year round in any water they can find including shallow containers such as a dog’s water bowl. Peron’s Tree Frogs, another common urban species, are more likely to be attracted to very large water bodies, such as swimming pools, or to containers with high straight sides that Striped Marsh Frogs can’t climb into.
Frogs are nocturnal and to survive they need shelter from the drying heat of the day. Again, different frogs will be attracted by different types of shelter. Peron’s Tree Frogs, and Green Tree Frogs enjoy pipes, letterboxes, and cool moist places like water tanks. Dwarf Tree Frogs enjoy living on vegetation in or very near water, including reeds, water lilies and in the wells of bromeliads. Striped Marsh frogs, being ground frogs, live in dense leaf litter which they burrow into during the day to keep moist.
Frogs have very sensitive skin because they actually drink through their skin rather than with their mouths. This makes them very susceptible to chemical pollutants such as paint, weed killers, pesticides and soaps. So if you want to make a frog-friendly space, consider where you use, and how you dispose of household chemicals.
Pets can also pose a problem for frogs. You can greatly help your local frogs by keeping your pets indoors at night, when frogs will be most active, and trying to have some areas of the garden where the dogs don’t go.
Once you’ve decided to create a frog-friendly space, your first step should be to find out what frogs are common in your area. Discover whether they’re ground frogs that burrow and live only on the ground, or tree frogs, so that you can make sure you have the right kind of water and shelter for the species you are likely to attract.
Then all you have to do is set up your water and wait for the frogs to come to you. Be aware though, that it’s illegal to move frogs or tadpoles from somewhere else into your own garden.
That said, frogs are resourceful and if you give them time, they’re likely to find your water body, even if it’s on a high apartment balcony.
Frogs as part of your local ecosystem
When people build frog ponds which begin to be populated by frogs, it can be quite shocking to find that we’re not the only ones interested in frogs and tadpoles. A successful frog pond will also attract a range of predators including birds such as Kookaburras, Currawongs, Butcher Birds and Magpies, as well as lizards and sometimes snakes, who will come to eat your frogs and tadpoles. Dragonflies are also attracted to frog ponds as their aquatic larvae can eat tadpoles. It may be alarming to think of the animals you’re trying to encourage being eaten, but this is part of the normal life of frogs and to be successful, a frog pond needs to be part of a balanced ecosystem.
Frogs dine on a range of insects, which can be beneficial for gardens, although they’re not known for controlling mosquitoes, while tadpoles are largely herbivores and eat algae, helping to control the algae levels in your pond. So ideally a frog pond should be the basis of an intricate food web of predators and prey which assists in the integration of native creatures into our urban environments.
Frogs as pets
While it’s legal to keep frogs as pets in NSW, you need an appropriate licence from the NSW government. However it’s illegal to take frogs from the wild, even from your own backyard. Pet frogs must be sourced from a licenced frog keeper or organisation. The Frog and Tadpole Study Group of NSW does re-home rescued frogs with members, but we encourage people to enjoy frogs by attracting them to your garden and enjoying them as part of your garden ecosystem. You don’t need a licence to have frogs living wild in your garden, but please don’t introduce them from other locations – be patient and let them come of their own accord.
Keep up with recent changes to this licencing system at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/licences-and-permits/wildlife-licences/native-animals-as-pets/frog-keeper-licences to make sure you apply for the correct kind of licence.