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Byron Shire
December 6, 2023

Green tree frogs rescued at Lennox Head

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Green tree frog stuck in pole at Lennox Head. Photo Artemis

Thanks to two locals there were 15 green tree frogs rescued from certain death last week on the walk up to the Pat Morton lookout at Lennox Head. 

Stairs where the green tree frogs were stuck in the supporting poles. Photo Bec

‘There’s a set of stairs leading from the car park up to Pat Morton lookout. Some of the hard plastic caps on top of the vertical 100x100mm metal stair posts had cracked, and [23 caps had] been replaced a year ago on 4 July 2021. On Wednesday, 20 July, the WIRES hotline received a call from two concerned members of the public, saying that some green tree frogs were trapped inside these vertical posts which had caps glued on top,’ WIRES wildlife carer Artemis told The Echo.

‘How did they know the frogs were in there? It was a random comment made by the girlfriend of one of the people who’d called WIRES, that “sometimes frogs get stuck in poles”. He (the member of the public) managed to pry a cap off one of the post, and sure enough – he found multiple green tree frogs inside. So he raised the alarm, as there were approximately 50 posts in total to be checked.’

Hazel McCallum pictured with various rescue implements and one of the green tree frogs. Photo Bec

Early morning rescue mission

It was a coordinated effort from WIRES and Ballina Shire Council that saw the 6.30am rescue team of six WIRES volunteers and Jason from Ballina Shire Council on site to start checking the poles for green tree frogs on 21 July. Fifteen frogs in total were rescued with some poles having multiple frogs inside. Some of the frogs had small lesions around their faces, which the vets believe was from their attempts to push their way out of their ‘sealed grave’. Two dead frogs were also found in poles from the original installation of the stairs. 

‘There was absolutely no way in or out of these posts [they were] fully sealed, with a glued or pop-rivoted cap on top meaning that these frogs had been inside the fence posts when the caps went on, and had miraculously survived one year and two weeks in the dark without food,’ explained Artemis. 

Cory Morris and Bec were part of the rescue team. Photo Bec

The rescued frogs were taken to the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital (BBWH) for vet checks. ‘They were emaciated and weak with a pale blue ring around their eyes which the vets believe was the result of malnutrition,’ she said.

‘The frogs were x-rayed to check for bone deterioration due to malnutrition, and they were all tested for the potentially deadly fungus chytrid. The latter is standard when checking green tree frogs, as if they are carrying this fungus and are released without treatment, this fungus can spread to other frogs in that same region/watercourse.’

Two have died

Green tree frogs stuck in pole at Lennox Head. All three are currently being assisted in feeding and the one on the right has been taken back to the BBWH for intensive care treatment. It is believed that the smallest one was born inside the pole. Photo Artemis

Since their rescue, two of the frogs has died and a number are still being assisted with feeding. One frog has recently been taken back to BBWH as assisted feeding wasn’t working.

‘We’ve got two in at the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital (BBWH) the moment because the carer thought a bit lethargic. They are going back today to the carer. One died at a carers and one was brought in yesterday afternoon but died overnight,’ Chantal Whitten, Associate Vet at the BBWH at Knockrow Castle, told The Echo

‘There were 15 altogether of various sizes and stages of body condiditons. They all seemed quite bright when they came in.

‘The one that died today has been lodged with the Frog ID just in case they have any of the conditions that might relate to the mass mortality of frogs that is currently taking is taking place in NSW.

There are no current conclusions as to why the frog mortality event is taking place.

Experts have ‘been testing for parasitic, bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens. These tests include looking for pathogens known to kill frogs, and also looking for possible novel pathogens, which is by far the harder task. The potential role of toxins is also being assessed,’ according to a report in The Conversation.

Artemis praised the work of the vets and other animal experts helping them look afer teh frogs. 

‘The frogs are being cared for by five volunteers and the vets have been amazing in answering all our questions on caring for the green tree frogs. While the green tree frogs are in care, they’ll be fed mealworms and crickets in order to bring them back to peak health, before they are released. They will remain in care for at least three weeks until the chytrid results come back,’ she said.

WIRES is reminding locals that green tree frogs and other native wildlife love to live inside sheltered spaces. if you are closing up gaps or sealing off pipes and other potential hiding places always check for frogs and other native wildlife before you do. Some of the green tree frogs were up to 1.2 metres down inside the hollow posts, and when the caps were put on the frogs were sealed in and would have eventually died.

To learn how to rescue and /or rehabilitate sick and injured wildlife and become part of a wonderful group of local volunteers visit WIRES training.

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  1. Well done everyone, when I was younger it was nothing to see more than 50 or more frogs in our old barn, sadly we noticed their numbers decline as the cane toads moved into the dams and creeks. But over the past couple of years we’ve seen a lot more around again. Such precious critters.


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