THE LOST FROGS' HOME:
An initiative of the Victorian Frog Group to rescue accidentally relocated
This article was originally prepared for "In the Spotlight" (Vol. 4, No. 2) by Rebekah, Gerry, Trish, Tracey, Michelle, and Joanne (and updated with new contact details when the ARC moved to Werribee in 2003).
A persistent problem that has arisen due to the transport of produce across long distances is the accidental movement of animals. Frogs have been found to be frequent tourists in such produce as bananas and other fruits arriving from northern New South Wales and Queensland. An estimated 6000-8000 frogs are transported to Melbourne annually via this process. Surveys have shown that these frogs are usually released into the area immediately surrounding the supermarket or grocery, a practice which could assist in disease spread into Victoria and which is a welfare issue for the frog concerned.
The Lost Frogs' Home
The Victorian Frog Group has in place a system for collection of these lost frogs or banana box frogs from almost anywhere in Victoria. Simply telephone the VFG on (03) 9742 3764 (or 9742 FROG) and we will arrange a "courier" to collect the frog. Once your frog is delivered to the Amphibian Research Centre in Werribee it undergoes a one month quarantine period where it is kept away from any others. Following this it is housed with other frogs and given a period of feeding and adjusting to captivity. Ultimately, the frog finds a suitable home (for a small fee which covers the cost of the recovery program) as either a school or personal pet.
The VFG has been issued a permit by the Department of Sustainability and Environment. Our collection system involves volunteer VFG members from all over Victoria, as well as participating produce dealers and importers.
The system explained
When the VFG is contacted by a store with a banana box frog we refer to our maps to see which volunteer has nominated themselves to cover that area. The volunteer is contacted by the Group and given the details of where to collect the frog together with the name and phone number of a contact person at the store. The volunteer arranges the pick-up at a mutually agreeable time for themselves and the person who has found the frog. This centralised system allows the volunteer courier's details to be protected and ensures that, even when they are on holidays or not home, the call will be answered. If the volunteer cannot be contacted, the Group arranges for someone from a adjoining area to collect the frog. After the frog is collected, it must be cared for by the volunteer until it can be taken to the Amphibian Research Centre (The ARC) in Werribee.
Caring for banana box frogs
Most banana box frogs are tree frogs from the northern half of Australia. If the frog is to be relocated to the ARC within a few days then short term care procedures are quite simple. If it is difficult to get the frog to the ARC in that time then longer term procedures apply.
If you have any concerns or problems the ARC is able to provide care advice for your frog.
Care in the short term
Short term care involves housing the frog in a clean container that has no residue of chemicals (e.g. washing detergents) that may affect the frog. There must be a small amount of water in the base of the container, enough so that the frog does not dehydrate, and the lid should have a few air holes in it. It is best that banana box frogs are not housed in the same tank as pet frogs. Wild frogs may transmit disease to your pets. Keep this container in a part of your house that doesn't get really cold. There is no need to be overly concerned about heating devices for the new houseguest, as most tropical frogs are able to live for a while without these, and most houses are seldom too cold. Almost all banana box frogs make it successfully to the ARC after a short stint in an ice cream container on someone's kitchen table. A live insect or two (not sprayed by insecticides of course) placed in with the frog provides a small snack. The snack is not too important as most frogs that come down from the north are in good condition and can easily go a week or so without any food. The next step is contacting the VFG/ARC and organising a suitable time when the frog can be delivered to the ARC, to be placed into quarantine.
Medium term care
If the banana box frog cannot be delivered to the ARC within a week, medium term care is necessary. A clear plastic pet box with plastic lid and ventilation, can be bought at reasonable prices from almost all pet stores (as well as the ARC). If a few rocks are placed in the bottom with some water and a bit of greenery this can create a very happy temporary home for the frog. Over longer periods of time food becomes an important issue. A few live insects each week is adequate for healthy frogs to happily survive upon. It is important to ensure that the insects are not too large for the frogs to consume when swallowed live and whole. The frog needs to be placed in a warm part of the house and, particularly in winter or in very cold houses, may need some artificial heat to encourage it to feed. If heating is required, a small submersible aquarium heater can be placed in the water and set to about 25°C.
After the frog is taken to the ARC, the container can simply be emptied and cleaned out. A wipe down with White King bleach will kill off any diseases and a thorough rinse will ensure that there is no chemical residue (check this by smelling).The container is now ready for the next banana box frog.
What if the volunteer can't bring the frog to the ARC?
If the volunteer is unable to drop off the frog, then call the Group and another volunteer courier will organised to collect the frog and bring it in. If someone is coming in to deliver frogs, the ARC usually tries to co-ordinate them picking up a few from other members along the way.
The Lost Frogs' Home collection area is the whole of Victoria. Volunteers are always sought to advertise the service more widely and to ease the workload of the existing frog couriers.
A special thank you
Thanks to all the people who have helped develop and get the program up and running - especially Gerry, Richard and Kelly. Thanks also to everyone who has been collecting frogs. Thanks to Tracey for producing the stickers, and to Gerry, Michelle, Anne, Fiona, and Joanne who have staffed the phone.