Celebrating Frog Day!
Frogs and toads (anurans) are widely considered to be the world’s most threatened and rapidly declining group of animals. The statistics are horrifying; the cause is us.
Save the Frogs
Anyone wondering what we can do or if anyone is doing anything should consider this carefully. Whilst conservationists are fighting hard to conserve species worldwide, the shiva side of humanity is working ever-harder to destroy it and the future of the World’s wildlife rests entirely in our hands, not governments who come and go and not conservationists, both of whom can only help but not succeed without our own species changing course.
The answer is fairly simple. We need to stop polluting and otherwise ruining other habitats by cutting down the fumes and effluents each one of us produces. We need to reduce our consumption and our travel and our waste. This, of course will effect the economy but the economy is not a god and humans have survived without such a thing before and the survival of the economy is not at stake, it will always exist and simply feeds off what we do. People who buy less, need less and people who need less buy less.
In the case of frogs and toads the global decline is linked to international trade spreading the deadly ‘disease’ popularly known as Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Among the probable vectors are the international trade in amphibians, fish and aquatic plants for pet, pond and food trades. But the picture is far from clear and amphibians were already in trouble before chytrid, through draining of water bodies, deforestation, afforestation, development, intensive farming, pollution, waste, road building and all the nasty things we are so familiar with.
What can we do?
We don’t need to stop consuming or working the land altogether! We just need to do it more carefully and think how our every action might effect the living world.
The best place to start is our own home, is it wildlife friendly? Then our outputs, effluents, fumes and waste, are they wildlife friendly? Then our consumerism, are we consuming ethically and do I really need that thing? What are the consequences of my consumption on the wider world? These three acts by each one of us, can make all the difference in the world.
After that we can act by raising awareness amongst our peers and contacts, lobbying, actively conserving species and habitats, voting and supporting conservation charities and others committed to nature conservation, environmentalism and planetary (including human) well being. If you do all these things already, I love you. If you can add one two or a few more to your way of life, I’ll love you more.
And back to frogs…
Now back to frogs. There are two species of frogs native to Britain although archaeological evidence is beginning to suggest more. One species, the pool frog, was sent to extinction before it was truly discovered and is still very rare. The other species is the widespread common frog. There are also two native toads, the rare and localised natterjack and the widespread common toad. As the common frog (Rana temporaria) and common toad (Bufo bufo) are the species that most of us in the UK are most likely to come across, I want to concentrate on them as they are an introduction to nature study for many many children and also adults. We call them gateway species to nature study.
My family told me that my interest in nature study began when a toad walked across the path in front of my pushchair. Hopefully, it was some great naturalist or god reincarnated as a toad to bring me a message to dedicate my life to conservation. Better that than us being alone on this rock in the universe. Unfortunately, I suspect that we are not being supervised supernaturally and everything we do is our own responsibility. So, let’s let the toad walk on.
Frogs are not without lumps and bumps but on toads there is a fairly even spread of ‘warts’ over the body. The toads face is quite rounded when viewed from above. Frogs are more like the nose of a passenger jet. Colour varies in both species but toads tend to have more coppery coloured eyes whilst frogs are more golden. There is usually a short dark stripe behind a frog’s eye with the circular ear within it. While toads have a perforated sausage shaped gland behind and slightly higher which exudes a toxin to put off predators. In water, toads are more likely to look evenly blotchy and frogs usually have obviously stripey legs. Both travel great distances on land but toads walk or run and frogs jump.
When seen together frog and toad tadpoles can be told apart by their tails. Frog tadpoles have pointed tails and Toad-poles have rounded ones.
Toad spawn can be tricky to see as it is underwater, translucent and laid in strings which are tangled around water plants. Frog spawn is more obvious as it often protrudes above the surface and is laid in clumps of spherical eggs in their protective gel.
The importance of a clean pond
To help them survive, they need clean ponds to breed in (preferably without fish) and lots and lots of wild space to live in on land with plenty of prey. Toads are a favourite food of grass snakes as are frogs who are an important prey for many species such as herons, polecats, otters, hedgehogs and many others. Tadpoles provide a spring feast for many garden birds and other wildlife. When kept carefully and safely, ponds are among the most important features in a wildlife garden and a fascinating resource for young naturalists and old as well but they’re best started young.
Please help frogs and toads today.
You can download the frog and toad images as a free colouring PDF for the young naturalists in your life by clicking on any of the images.