As COVID-19 travel restrictions kick in, many Australians are feeling a little trapped. The impact isn’t restricted to humans -- this amputee frog is currently trapped in northern Queensland, and could really use a hand to get home.
A formerly five-legged frog (it's just had its extra limb removed) has been caught out by Queensland's coronavirus travel restrictions, and has turned to hitchhiking to find its way home.
The green tree frog was found in the Mackay area and was sent north, to Mission Beach, for an operation to remove its surplus leg.
Frog Safe founder Deborah Pergolotti runs the rescue centre currently housing the frog, and said the amphibian is fully recovered and ready to return to Mackay.
"It had two left arms, so there were two limbs coming out of the same socket, one of which was dysfunctional and facing round the wrong direction," she said.
"The frog was actually tripping over the arm, so now he just has the normal functional left limb there. Easier for him to get around and chase food and do what frogs do best."
Unfortunately, the drive between Mission Beach and Mackay is seven to eight hours long, and COVID-19 travel restrictions are making it difficult to find this frog a ride.
Typically, Pergolotti says, Frog Safe would appeal to the community to find someone already planning on driving or catching public transport in the right direction.
"Even just on the train, it would have been useful to have someone to just sit this box next to them, but I'm not even sure the trains are running anymore," Pergolotti told The Feed.
"Normally there's lots of movement, and you can simply get the word out and someone puts their hand up."
The effort to crowdsource rides for frogs is necessary, because the Code of Practice for the Care of Sick, Injured or Orphaned Protected Animals in Queensland requires that rescued amphibians must only be released close to the location from which they were originally taken, to minimise the spread of parasites and disease.
"We'd be perfectly happy to release the frog here, if the Queensland government would relax the rules," Pergolotti said. So far, her industry has not featured prominently in COVID-19 updates.
"It hasn't said anything about wildlife rescue at all. The whole wildlife rescue community, there's still calls coming in for injured animals, and these groups, that's what they do."
"But with all the sorts of industries that have been shut down, no one has said anything about wildlife rescue activities."
As for the formerly five-legged frog, he's doing just fine for the meantime.
"He's in a nice big tank here, and he's getting fed, and he doesn't have to worry about predators -- they have a very relaxed lifestyle in here," Pergolotti said.
The clock is ticking, though.
"It would be nice if it could go back out there before the rain stops, because summer is their breeding season. They hear the cues -- oh, it's raining out, time to go out and breed!"
Right now, Frog Safe is appealing to anyone who still has reason to travel from the Mission Beach area south to Mackay to consider giving a frog a ride home.
Failing that, Pergolotti is hoping to receive the all-clear from the Department of Environment and Science to find a suitable release point for the frog closer to home.
The Feed reached out to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science to ask whether updated operating guidelines will be issued for wildlife rescue organisations during the COVID-19 crisis. We'll update this story if we receive a response.
If you still have reason to travel between Mission Beach and Mackay under the latest COVID-19 guidelines, you can contact Frog Safe here.
Update: A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science told The Feed that while Section 15 of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (2013) states that rehabilitated animals must be released at the point of capture, it also states that "if the original point of capture is not appropriate for release, then the animal must be released as close to the original site as possible, in suitable habitat for that species."
"Due to travel constraints because of the COVID-19 event, wildlife carers can comply with the Nature Conservation Act by releasing rehabilitated animals into suitable habitat for that species," the spokesperson said.
"Given the common green tree frog occurs in all Queensland habitats from desert to coastal swamps, including dry vine thickets, a suitable habitat can easily be found."
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