Two of the highest priority EDGE amphibian species are under imminent threat of extinction from mining, as the New Zealand Government proposes to remove protection from conservation land.
Archey’s frog (Leiopelma archeyi) and Hochstetter’s frog (L. hochstetteri) are prehistoric amphibians which have survived mass extinctions and represent half of New Zealand’s native amphibian fauna, but are currently struggling to cope with increasing human pressure. Years of work have gone into preventing the extinction of these remarkable frogs, but efforts may have been in vain should a recent proposal from the New Zealand Government be implemented.
In the 1990s areas of New Zealand that were considered to be of “high conservation value” (including many National Parks) were placed on Schedule 4 which recognised their conservation significance and proclaimed them as a “no go” area for all other activities.
The New Zealand government is now asking for public submissions about their proposal to remove some of this high conservation value land from Schedule 4 to open it up for mining (coal, gold iron ore and rare minerals). The areas to be mined include several long-term frog monitoring sites where the frog populations have been continually monitored for over 40 years – this represents the best data on frog populations anywhere in the world.
In addition the proposed mining area includes the ‘type’ locality of Archey’s frog (Tokatea on the Coromandel Peninsula) and Hochstetter’s frogs (Coromandel Peninsula). Archey’s frogs only occur in two areas of New Zealand and the Coromandel is considered the ‘stronghold’ population.
“Save our frogs – stop the mining” really is the biggest issue in New Zealand conservation. Archey’s frogs are Critically Endangered, having lost 88% of their population since 1996, while Hochstetter’s frog is found in just 10 highly fragmented locations. These frogs are just hanging in there and without our help they will disappear. If we destroy their habitat then we will quickly lose a part of one of the most important pieces of New Zealand history as well as a large piece of the amphibian evolutionary tree.
Archey’s frog is the number one amphibian conservation priority in the world (out of more than 6,500 species!) according to the EDGE criteria. The New Zealand frogs are the most ancient frogs in the world and if they go extinct we will lose over 200 million of years of evolutionary history.
These frogs were around before the Atlantic Ocean existed, and before the planet’s highest mountain range – the Himalayas – had even started to form. We have a moral obligation to protect these original inhabitants of New Zealand – they walked the feet of the dinosaurs, but now they need our help to avoid extinction.
For more information on how the frogs will be affected (including maps of distribution and proposed areas to be mined) visit nzfrogs.org.
To see some presentations about the mining issue from a recent Panel Discussion click here
For more information about the mining in Coromandel click here
Finally, please make a submission to the New Zealand government supporting the continued protection of these critical habitats by clicking here. Submissions can be made until 5pm (New Zealand time) on Wednesday the 26th May 2010.