New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2017) 41(1): 134-138

Tracking a small cryptic amphibian with fluorescent powders

Short Communication
Patricia A. Ramírez 1*
Ben D. Bell 1
Jennifer M. Germano 2
Phillip J. Bishop 3
Nicola J. Nelson 1
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Private Bag 3072, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
  3. Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

The study of amphibian spatial behaviour provides key information for species conservation. Most commonly used techniques to track amphibians are either unsuitable for small species or fail to give sufficiently fine-resolution data of habitat use. We report on the use of non-toxic fluorescent powders to track the fine-scale movement of a threatened New Zealand frog, Leiopelma pakeka. We assess the effect of powder application on frog movements, detection of frog pathways during a dry and a wet period, and the use of this marking technique after a translocation for conservation purposes. Our results show that fluorescent powders can be successfully used to obtain detailed information of fine-scale movements and habitat use of frogs, even during rainy periods. All frogs remained alive throughout the study period and no ill effects were noticeable. This technique has potential use for tracking other species that are too small or cryptic to be tracked using more conventional methods.