Balranald has recognised the anomaly of the Southern Bell Frog, being a threatened species and yet appearing in large numbers around this Outback New South Wales town.  Given that the presence of frogs is considered as one indicator of the state of the environment, it has been suggested that Balranald must be a great place to live. 
Local panel beater Roy Mann has made 20 human sized frog sculptures in Balranald, most of which have been purchased by local businesses.
Visit the Balranald Visitor Information Centre to see the collection of frogs or to buy one of the many frog items for sale. 

The Southern Bell Frog

The Southern Bell Frog, also known as the Growling Grass Frog, is a large handsome frog that lives in semi-permanent wetlands in south eastern Australia. It is closely related to the Green and Golden Bell Frog which was made famous when it halted work on the Olympic village at Homebush bay. It is bright green in colour with splotches of gold, bronze and black along its back and bright turquoise on the back of its thighs.  It can change colour rapidly when subject to heat or bright lights and often turns dark brown during the day.

The frog generally calls between October and March; it is commonly heard after dark, but can occasionally be heard during the day. When the frog calls it sounds very much like a motor boat or dirt bike changing up through the gears (Waaaaah waaaaah waaaaah) which is often followed by a rapid series of short muffled chuckles (wah wah wah).

The Southern Bell Frog is a member of the tree frog family (hylids) a group which includes the popular Green Tree Frog which is often kept as a pet. Like all tree frogs it has round suction caps on its feet and its toes are webbed, however it rarely climbs and spends most of its time on the ground. The Southern Bell Frog is unusual in that it enjoys basking in the sun during the day, rather like a snake or lizard.

Southern Bell frogs prefer to live in areas that have shallow water, which dries out for a little while each year as this keeps predatory fish numbers down. It likes to have plenty of aquatic vegetation both within and at the edge of the water, which provides protection from predatory birds.

Disappearance of the Southern Bell Frog

Once wide spread and abundant the Southern Bell Frog is now highly endangered.  It has disappeared from over 50% of its former range over the last 20 years. Scientists are still unsure why the frog began to disappear, but disease, habitat loss, the use of Farm and Garden Chemicals and exotic species are likely causes.

Declines of amphibian populations are of particular concern owing to the role of frogs in reducing insect pests, controlling such aspects of wetland structure and function and as an essential food source for reptiles and waterbirds.

Distribution of The Southern Bell Frog

In NSW the Southern Bell Frog is presently restricted to a few key areas along the Murrumbidgee and in the lower Murrumbidgee flood plain (the Lowbidgee) between Maude and Balranald. The Lowbidgee region is of particular importance for the conservation of the frogs as it contains large areas of high quality River Red Gum and Lignum/Black Box swamps, which until the recent drought, were regularly flooded by the DLWC and MDBC. These areas are exceptionally good frog habitat, and this is reflected in the high numbers of Southern Bell and other frog species recorded in the region. 

Project Information

Dr Skye Wassens from Charles Sturt University is working with the Southern Bell Frog in association with CRC for Sustainable Rice Production, Murray – Darling Commission (MDBC) and Department of land and water Conservation (DLWC). Dr Skye and her research team are working to help increase knowledge of the Southern Bell Frog so that they can plan and implement effective conservation strategies to ensure the frogs existence in both irrigation and non-irrigation areas where they occur. This research will also help to better plan for biodiversity management and restoration programs in the future.
Southern Bell Frog native range.