Check for hopportunistic hitchhikers

A disoriented foam-nest tree frog from Zambia who mistook a man’s luggage for its foamy-nested home was discovered in June and referred to biosecurity officers in Sydney.

Head of biosecurity operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said that the adventurous amphibian posed a disease risk to Australia and praised the passenger for his kermitment to biosecurity by promptly reporting the find.

“It must have been alarming to discover a frog in his luggage, but I’m pleased that the passenger raised this discovery with Australian Museum staff, who in turn notified biosecurity officers,” Mr Padovan said.

“The foam-nest tree frog is a highly adaptable species with a range of habitats in Central Africa, and are known to attach their nests to the sides of man-made structures overhanging water, such as bridges.

“Exotic stowaway amphibians could carry diseases not present in Australia and affect the delicate ecosystems that sustains native wildlife populations.

“There was a risk that this frog could have carried an exotic type of highly pathogenic ranavirus. Introduced amphibians could expose a wide range of susceptible hosts like fish and reptiles to exotic diseases.

“As an island nation, Australia is free of many pests and diseases found throughout the world. Our biosecurity systems help to protect our environment, agricultural industries, and the health of people and their pets.

“It is important for members of the public to thoroughly check their luggage, especially moist areas such as in shoes.

“Do not panic if you notice any stowaway plant or animal material. Biosecurity officers can follow through and handle the matter.

“Having snuck in via a passenger’s luggage, the frog’s health status was unknown and had to be put down to manage the biosecurity risk.”

The frog was humanely euthanised in accordance with animal ethics committee protocols, and has been fixed in 80% ethanol by the museum for its herpetology collection—a fitting epilogue for this frog.

To report a biosecurity concern or for more information, visit agriculture.gov.au/pests-diseases-weeds/report.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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