I’ve always liked frogs and other amphibians –especially the tiny and delicate green tree frogs that sometimes turn up on walks in the forest where I grew up on Vancouver Island. One frog memory that stands out in my mind was from the summer I was about ten. My family spent a day at Ten Mile Lake near Quesnel in the BC interior. It was the Day of the Frogs. Hundreds of tiny brown frogs were everywhere! We kids collected them in whatever we had on hand — pails, pop cans, our hands. Most, we let go after watching them for awhile, but I do remember trying to bring a few unlucky ones home in a pop can (I think my dad returned the survivors to the lake).
I don’t know what it was about that year (around 1970), but I’ve talked to other people who have similar memories of the amazing abundance of frogs that summer. I never saw numbers of frogs like that again and probably never will — now that frogs are disappearing all over the globe.
Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are in trouble. That’s why 2008 is not just the Year of the Rat, it’s the Year of the Frog. Scientists and other frog-watchers are calling for raised awareness and action to help save frogs and their relatives.
Frogs are cool. The jump, they croak (when I was in Japan I spent about an hour hunting for a glimpse of the loudest frog I’d ever heard — it sounded huge, but in fact, it was tiny and very good at hiding), and they come in a variety of colours. They play an important role in their ecosystems, eating hundreds and even thousands of bugs a year. The protective chemicals produced by some frogs have also been refined by scientists for use as life-saving medicines.
Frogs and other amphibians have thin semi-permeable skin that helps them drink and breathe, but that also makes them vulnerable to environmental contaminants (like pesticides and herbicides sprayed on farmers’ fields). Amphibians are often the first creatures to be effected by carcinogens and hormone-altering chemicals in the environment, which is why they’re considered an indicator species. When they’re in trouble, we’re in trouble.
Frogs are effected by habitat loss, climate change, disease, introduced predators, pollution, pesticides, etc., so anything we can do to help reduce these will help save frogs. As Kermit the frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” So, think green: remember the frogs.
If you’ve got a frog encounter story, please share it here.
(Awareness poster from the Vancouver Aquarium’s frog conservation project.)