Monday, April 5, 2010

Wet and froggy

It's raining heavily today and my house is full of frogs.

I'm typing to the accompaniment of numerous 'pings' - as drips fall into saucepans - and I'm hedged in on all sides by books rescued from the flood that's seeping under my front door. The frogs, however, are having a great time. I've counted four species so far.

Apart from general wetness, I'm feeling bad because last night's storm flooded my tadpole dish, washing away half the tadpoles. Secretly, I'm also a little relieved. You see, about 8 weeks ago, while walking the dogs, I came across a patch of muddy ooze filled with 1000s of squirming tadpoles. The rains have been poor this year with several weeks elapsing between each rain storm. This is bad news for the local frogs who depend on temporary pools to breed. All summer I've been stumbling across almost dried-up puddles filled with writhing tadpoles, which I surreptitiously transfer to deeper pools. It's all been useless, of course: when next I pass, there's no trace of water anywhere. The ants are making a killing.
The Tadpoles that Lived.

Anyway, on this occasion, I scooped a few hundred into my water bottle and - unable to find an alternative - stuck them in my birdbath. This act of altruism (bunny-hugging?? frog conservation??) has been costly. The little blighters nibble their way through two lettuces a week, require twice daily water changes and - once they find their feet, so to speak - must be caught and transferred to a dish embedded in the garden. I'm getting a bit sick of it. I don't even know what species they are (at least two); fingernail-sized frogs are mighty difficult to identify.

More easily dealt with are those that are currently hopping around my feet.

The plain grass frog (Ptychadena anchietae)
is less than 2 inches long but is the most amazing jumper I've ever seen. They cross the room in one bound, nonchalantly leaping high over my head. The pets, who normally ignore frogs, can't resist giving chase, so these little guys go flying all over the house, ricocheting off the walls and roof before ultimately disappearing out a window. The sharp-nosed grass frog (Ptychadena oxyrhynchus) – which is what I think some of my tadpoles are growing into – is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest amphibian leap: in 1977  'Santjie', a resident of Kwa-Zulu Natal, hopped 10.3 metres.

Tropical plantanas (Xenopus muelleri)
are supposed to live permanently in water. They're certainly built for it, with eyes perched on top of their heads and huge webbed hind feet that leave them virtually unable to hop. Covered in poisonous slime, they squirm across my floor and die within 12 hours if I don't put them outside. I haven't seen them in previous years; I assume the poor rains have left them besieged at the river and they're now out searching for newly filled pans. My house must lie on an ancient, plantana migration route because they're all utterly determined to traverse my lounge room.

Red toad (Schismaderma carens).
This large toad is a permanent resident. Although he eagerly gulps mealworms each evening, our relationship has deteriorated considerably since 'Take your toad to work day'. Of all the idiot places he's chosen to snooze the day away (and he's picked some doozies: in the toe of my boot, in the cats' food bowl, inside the teapot), his biggest mistake has been my backpack. Nestled away inside, he inadvertently spent the morning with me in the field and then accompanied me on my weekly shopping trip to town. I only discovered him when retrieving my wallet at the supermarket checkout; much to the cashier's consternation.


  1. this reminds me of the time i got a tadpole in the mail because my school was studying animals. and it makes me want to buy tadpoles in the mail. do you know of a website were i can order tadpoles? once when i was little i poisened my brother's frog and didn't realize it would kill it. it ate a whole popped balloon

  2. Audrey,
    Sorry I can't help you. I didn't even know you could buy mail order tadpoles. Perhaps you should check out your local swamps once the weather warms up a bit more.

  3. We have so many tree frogs here! The kids in the village eat the bull frog in summer its really sad to see such beautful thing being killed!

  4. Kristen,
    I don't think I could eat a frog!

  5. I now! The people here will eat anything that moves because they are very poor in the village!


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