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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 12 August, 2020
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'Nothing political, nothing stressful. Just calm tadpoles': Tyrone teen on her international TikTok fame

Hannah McSorley is affectionately known as “tadpole girl” and has an audience scattered across the USA, UK, Ireland and beyond.

AT THE BEGINNING of the lockdown, Hannah McSorley was out for a walk with her nine-year-old brother when she happened upon a clump of frogspawn in a wet field near her home in Clanabogan, Co. Tyrone.

It was an unusual spot to find them, she thought. If they stayed there, their chances of survival were slim. Suddenly, she had an epiphany. Growing up, the 17-year-old had spent many summers going out to the countryside and collecting tadpoles. She figured this was as good a time as any to pass the tradition down to her young brother.

“I thought, ‘Well this is a great opportunity not only to save a few tadpoles but also to let my brother have the experience of raising tadpoles,’” she said.

The two siblings scooped the frogspawn into “a wee jar” and brought them home. That same day, she posted a video to TikTok showcasing her discovery. “Found some frogspawn today,” she wrote.

“I took it home. I’m going to watch it grow! I will keep you updated!”

McSorley wasn’t an avid TikTok user but the video did “surprisingly well”. She decided to continue sharing daily updates. On day two, she posted a video of the frog embryos sitting in the jar.

“Can’t wait until I own 37,930 frogs!” she wrote.

On Day 3, she wrote, “Bro I am excited to own 37,930 frogs!!”

By Day 7, they were floating around a plastic tub in her garden. “We can see baby tadpoles forming,” she wrote excitedly. “37,930!!!”

Fast forward nearly three months later and McSorley is a bona fide TikTok sensation.

She has over 580,000 followers while her videos have been viewed more than nine million times. She is affectionately known as “tadpole girl” and has an audience scattered across the USA, UK, Ireland and beyond.

She has been featured in international news outlets like The Guardian and The Daily Dot as well as her own local newspaper, the Tyrone Herald.

“Everybody knows about the tadpoles,” she laughs.

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She isn’t exactly sure how or why the account took off and blames TikTok’s “totally weird” algorithms.

The appeal, she says, lies in the fact that her videos are peaceful and soothing.

“I just try to focus on delivering wholesome content,” she says.

“Nothing political, nothing stressful. Just calm tadpoles.”

At the moment, McSorley has two makeshift habitats in her garden. The vast majority of the tadpoles live in a swimming pool she bought in Argos – her fourth swimming pool and hopefully her last – while a handful of special tadpoles live in a smaller container.

“There is one tadpole, Riley, who doesn’t have a tail,” she notes.

“It’s very difficult for him to swim around and get food. I also keep President Nugget in there to keep him company. Then there’s a tadpole with a wonky tail.”

She says that looking after tadpoles isn’t as time-consuming or expensive as it looks.

“I wake up in the morning, go out and check to make sure they’re alright and see if any of them passed,” she says.

“In the afternoon, I boil some food for them. Their normal diet is a bit of boiled spinach and a little bit of cod chopped up for them. That doesn’t take too long.

“Honestly you can keep tadpoles for free. You really don’t need money to keep them. I just like to spend a little money on decorations and stuff. Food is pretty cheap. If you got algae from where you got them, you could feed them for free. I just had to spend a little bit of money on pools because they’re quite unreliable.”

Since her account took off, McSorley has become a tadpole influencer of sorts. She says she has received countless messages from people all over the world looking to raise their own tadpoles.

“I have had so many emails and messages that I have actually taken the time to write up my very own personal tadpole guide,” she says.

“I just email it or message it to people who ask for it. I haven’t published it or anything. But if someone asks me ‘Any tips?’ or ‘Why aren’t my tadpoles eating?’ I have a short guide that will literally explain everything that could happen with tadpoles and how to look after them perfectly.”

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The question McSorley gets asked the most is whether she really has 37,930 tadpoles.

On Twitter, it has become something of a running joke with one user likening the scenario to something from the Book of Exodus. One concerned citizen was so unnerved by the prospect of a plague of frogs that they reported McSorley to the local wildlife inspector. Fortunately that was quickly resolved.

“After talking with him and explaining it’s not of biblical proportions and there aren’t that many tadpoles, we came to a pretty happy conclusion,” she says. “Once everything was explained, everything was fine. There’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. They just had to follow that up, you know?”

McSorley says that the figure of 37,930 tadpoles is a playful exaggeration.

“It’s probably quite a generous estimate but there is a few thousand tadpoles at least,” she says. “And I will have a few thousand frogs.”

While that might still seem like a lot of frogs, she has a plan in place to safely release them when the time comes.

“They will be released in small batches of 15 in different locations within a two mile radius of where I live in different wet areas that I know is suitable for them,” she says. “Marshes, near streams, ponds.”

She adds that a lot of natural sources of frogspawn have dried due to the unseasonably dry weather over the last few months. With that in mind, it is her hope that her “little frogs will actually go on to do good” for the environment.

“To be honest, the majority of them will end up eaten by birds,” she notes. “However, the ones that survive will have a positive impact on the environment.”

In September, McSorley will return to school to study for her A-Levels. She says she would love to become a vet.

“I just have such a love for animals and nature,” she says. “I keep so many more animals than tadpoles. I have kittens, chickens, rabbits. A baby bunny is due.”

“It’s been great for me during lockdown because even though I’m missing friends and people I have all my animals to keep me company.”

Follow Hannah McSorley on Tik Tok here.

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Amy O'Connor

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