Elaine Davies is a reluctant and unusual eco warrior. But to the City of Sydney she is the very model of a modern eco hero.
The Davies family’s above-ground backyard pool in suburban Rosebery has been the difference between life and death for the threatened green and golden bell frog, according to a flora and fauna survey by the council.
”We didn’t even realise what they were,” Mrs Davies said. The frogs took up residence 30 years ago in the pool that her husband had refused to dismantle despite her nagging.
”We were sitting out the back and suddenly we realised that we were being observed by frogs, these very pretty green and gold frogs,” said Mrs Davies, who is in her late 70s.
The city has identified 63 native birds, eight mammals, 11 reptiles and five frog species plus many plants and trees, many of which were thought to have died out altogether in the inner-city area alone.
As well as the green and golden bell frog, other threatened species living between the high-rises and the highways included the powerful owl, the grey-headed flying fox, and the long-nosed bandicoot. Some venomous red-bellied black snakes were found near the Glebe light rail stop.
”To find we have naturally occurring native plants and animals in such a disturbed environment is pretty incredible,” said Joel Johnson, the manager of parks, trees and aquatic facilities with City of Sydney.
”And the numbers we found were incredible,” he said.
”There are 365 native plant species, and 87 native animals.”
The city has allocated $14 million over five years to its Urban Ecology Strategic Action Plan to expand these animals’ habitats and restore areas where indigenous plant species were found. That would include workshops on how to create natural habitats, and offer matching grants for community groups, neighbours and schools that provided the labour.
It would also include a website where the public could record sightings, and upload photos.
Mr Johnson cited Sydney Park in St Peters as an example of what could be done. “It was was once a landfill, and now it is a fabulous wetland system with freshwater wading birds that visit every year, and resident birds.”
Lord mayor Clover Moore said every citizen had a role to play in protecting this ”amazing wildlife, before it’s gone forever”.
While most people focused on animal sightings, the city discovered many species of plants in the area such as saltbush and mangroves in Rozelle Bay that were thought to have disappeared.
In Glebe, volunteers had restored the population of the endangered Superb fairy-wren by planting mixed height shrubs, including prickly and thorny plants, that protect them from larger predators.
Mrs Davies said she did little to preserve the frogs.
”They came of their own volition, they’ll probably go on their own volition, too,” she said.
She was saddened to see that frog numbers were down, and her pond had started attracting marsh frogs.
While the green and golden bell frogs had a beautiful call, the marsh frog sounded like a metronome. ”It is not a call, it is just a sound,” she said dismissively.
Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald