Fact file: Kroombit tinker frog (Taudactylus pleione)

Kroombit Tinker Frog by Stephen Mahony

IUCN statusCritically endangered
Population sizeFewer than 200
Population trendDeclining
Unique evolutionary history41 million years

This oddly named cryptic frog got its name from the Kroombit Tops National Park in which it can be found, and the ‘tink, tink, tink’ of its call, reminiscent of two small pieces of metal being hit together. Along with its five other brethren within Taudactylus genus, all endemic to the rainforests along the eastern coast of Australia, it is thought that two of the species are already extinct and three are listed as critically endangered. Kroombit tinker frog joins its critically endangered cousins, with an ever-declining population.

The Taudactylus genus has been evolving in isolation for over 65 million years, basically, these frogs have been doing their own thing since the extinction of the dinosaurs!

These frogs are masters of camouflage like the cork-bark leaf-tailed gecko, and often the only trace of them can be their mating calls, which they use to define their own territory.

What are the threats facing the Kroombit tinker frog?

As with many amphibious species, the Kroombit tinker frog’s biggest cause of decline is due to chytridiomycosis, a fungal infection that can cause up to 100% mortality in species and has affected around 30% of amphibians around the globe. With the species being so rarely seen in the wild, there is very little information about the prevalence of chytrid in the species, however several more commonly found species have been found with the infection within the Kroombit Creek. Alongside this threat are the classic cases of habitat degradation and introduced pest species, alongside occasional intense bush fires which have burned through essential habitat and disrupted breeding cycles in the past.

This tiny tinker frog is lives in the gullies of Queensland rainforests. Flickr/Smithsonian’s National Zoo

What is being done to help save the Kroombit tinker frog from extinction?

Much of the natural habitat of these miniature clinking frogs is within a protected area, which is a great start. A programme of in-situ monitoring and assessments help conservationists to track population changes and show the effectiveness of certain conservation measures. Pest control is currently reducing the impacts of feral pigs, horses and cattle that threaten the area. In addition, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is operating a captive breeding programme, supplementing wild frogs with those raised in captivity to bolster the populations. Whilst the programme is still in its infancy, the first frogs successfully bred in 2019 and 84 captive bred Kroombit tinker frogs now make up an insurance population against extinction.

What can I do to help?

Conservation is always complex, but that means there are often many solutions that people can help towards. To save this tiny tinker, conservation actions are needed to:

  • Further fund the Kroombit tinker frog recovery programme and build new Amphibian Conservation Facilities within Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Train researchers and land managers in methods to minimise the spread of the chytrid fungus using appropriate handling and disinfecting techniques
  • Hold targeted surveys to determine precise areas in which the species persists, and investigate possible subpopulations within the wider area
  • Reduce the impacts of habitat destruction by cattle, feral pigs and feral horses with the use of fences to exclude stock, but also to prevent fouling of key water sources

If you love weird animals of all shapes and sizes and you want to see how you can help with WAWA’s conservation support, then please see how you can get involved here.

Further reading