Travel restrictions mean no hoppy returns for amputee frog

Travel restrictions have left this frog in limbo.

Travel restrictions have left this frog in limbo. Photo: AAP

A five-legged frog recovering from a delicate amputation is in limbo after being caught out by Queensland’s coronavirus travel restrictions.

The Green Tree Frog was found in the Mackay area and sent north to Mission Beach for an operation to remove its extra leg.

Frog Safe founder Deborah Pergolotti says the amphibian is ready to return to the wild but that’s easier said than done.

Under Queensland rules, rescued wildlife must be returned to their point of origin once they have recovered.

But, with people ordered to stay in their neighbourhoods and avoid non-essential travel, Ms Pergolotti can’t find anyone to take the frog home.

“The only reason she has to go back to Mackay is because the Queensland government requires it,” she told AAP on Tuesday.

In normal circumstances, when we don’t have a lock down, that would be easy to achieve with a quick, social media post.

“But that’s not the case now and I’m sure all the wildlife rescue groups are in the same boat.”

Ms Pergolotti says the amputee frog could make a new home in the animal sanctuary on her property south of Cairns.

But, unless the government relaxes the rules that can’t happen.

Ms Pergolotti initially believed her latest patient had a fifth leg growing out of her chest.

But the surgery showed the frog was actually growing two legs out of the same front socket – a deformity she’s seen many times before.

“It was not quite accurately formed, it had toes on it but the wrong number, and it had an elbow joint, so it was moveable but it was pointing the wrong direction.”

Ms Pergolotti wants rigorous research into a dramatic spike in malformed frogs, which she says coincided with the rise of neonicotinoid pesticides and insecticides in the late 1990s.

The European Union has banned outdoor use of neonicotinoids due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is currently reviewing their use amid concerns about bee health.

Ms Pergolotti says deformed frogs began appearing in alarming numbers in the late 1990s and there was a huge spike in 2003 when far north Queensland got drought-breaking rain.

“Suddenly, out of nowhere, we started to see malformed frogs en masse, and these were coming from different areas too,” she says.

“We were getting calls from people spotting tadpoles with multiple limbs in their ponds, high die off rates, eggs that don’t hatch, an incredible amount of scoliosis. And that continues to this day.

“There’s so little academic interest in what’s going on with frogs. This research should be happening.”


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