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Bryans Swamp

Life in oceans, rivers and seas

“Much of the habitat for the Growling Grass Frog has been isolated or fragmented, restricting the opportunity for important population processes such dispersal and colonisation”. Australian Government

Andrea and Peter Hylands

January 14, 2023

Bryans Swamp is a wetland in Western Victoria set amidst intensely cleared agricultural land at the edge of the Grampians Mountains complex and Gariwerd National Park. Following the drainage works and subsequent grazing of the last century, so typical of what was done to wetland systems, some attempts at restoration are underway. On our last few visits, water levels, given the general wet conditions and some recent reversal of drainage works, including the construction of a sandbag weir, were higher.

For wildlife or shooters?

Parks Victoria describe Bryans Swamp as a wildlife reserve. Given the usual and incoherent logic applied to the remaining places in Victoria where wildlife can still survive, the swamp is also a game reserve. That means for three months each year it can be used by shooters to kill waterbirds.

This is despite Bryans Swamp’s role as a refuge for endangered species. This means that while shooters are present, Bryans Swamp, is off-limits to visitors with more peaceful activities in mind.

Growling Grass Frog

“The Growling Grass Frog is a large frog (females may exceed100 mm in length) that varies from dull olive to bright emerald-green on the back (dorsum), with large irregular blotches ranging from brown to rich golden-bronze”. Australian Government

On our last visits frogs were active and included the Growling Grass Frog or Southern Bell Frog Litoria raniformis. In Victoria this species is listed as threatened under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and was once one of the most common species of frog in south-eastern Australia, experiencing declines in both population and range, rapidly from around 1990.

Inconsistencies between states tend to create confusion as to the true conservation status of a species in Australia, even when the threats and consequences to a species are similar. The Growling Grass Frog was also listed as vulnerable under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and endangered under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

“International research has shown that larger amphibians are unlikely to travel more than 50 metres along a barrier when seeking an opening under it”. Schmidt and Zumbach, 2008

The dramatic decline of the species has occurred over the last few decades, among the threats in Victoria, Frog chytrid fungus, the development of urban growth corridors and roads that disrupt movement of the species and significant habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation.

For Bryans Swap, the probable threat relates to vast areas of agricultural development surrounding the wetland and the drainage activities conducted over decades, which may have drained the swamp each year prior to the completion of the breeding cycle. Seeing the plight of wildlife in wetlands that are drying is not a pleasant experience, nor is the sight of increasing fragmentation of the landscape.

What will happen in 2023?

We can probably say that Bryans Swap has made some positive steps towards recovery in 2022. We can only hope that this progress is not used to pretend an abundance of birdlife that allows for months of shooting in 2023.

Signs of slaughter at swamp's edge