Image supplied by The Brand Collective
Did you know that frogs are the most threatened group of vertebrates (animals with a backbone) on Earth? So much so, that they are dangerously hanging on the edge of extinction!
While many of us may get grossed out by these sticky, slimy little creatures – some of whom keep us up at night with their chorus of croaks – there’s no denying their vital role in our ecosystem and their usefulness towards us as humans. And actually, they are not as sticky or as slimy as you may think….some people believe that if a frog jumps on you it will stick to you…for life! But this is simply an old fishwife’s tale.
Not only do frogs provide food to many different animals, keeping them alive, but they also consume huge amounts of insects, which might otherwise bug us out!
One lesser known fact is that they can also serve as bio-indicators, meaning they can help us gauge the state of local environments and see whether they are healthy or not. This is thanks to their sensitive skin, which only allows them to live in specific environments – ones that are healthy of course.
And although you may not turn into a princess after kissing them, frogs do have their own natural superpowers. Some species, such as the North America Milk Frog, the Western Clawed
Frog and the Midwife Toad, secrete peptides which researchers are using to help them develop a way to eliminate superbugs like MRSA.
From inspiring nano-scale research, research on antimicrobial peptides, automated airplane de-icing mechanisms, graphene production and the development of scotch-tape, to algorithm design for efficient wireless networks and molecular condoms to help prevent spread of HIV, frogs have certainly proved their importance in our lives. Did you know that at least 15 Nobel Prizes have been linked to frog research for contributions to medicine?
Fun Frog Facts
- Amphibians are the longest surviving land vertebrates and thus the most ancient group of animals. In fact, they originated 350 million years ago (they’re as old as dinosaurs) and have adapted to just about every niche on the planet.
- On average, most frogs can jump 30 times their own body length – that’s roughly the distance of an entire rugby stadium!
- Tree frogs can jump 10 times their own height.
Images supplied by Gifford Duminy, featuring line work frogs by Mook Lion and a White Frog by Dre Thyssen Art
Leap Day for Frogs
Thanks to a very special lady, Jeanne Tarrant, from the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), these water-loving creatures are finding a voice to speak out against their endangerment.
As one of the EWT’s many conservation initiatives, Leap Day for Frogs has been running for the last 6 years. The day aims to celebrate frogs while highlighting their importance, and events are held throughout the country. This year, however, is especially awesome, since this initiative (very intentionally) happens to be a Leap Year (get it?). In addition to this, Jeanne has gone the extra mile and, after getting in touch with local artist, Giffy Duminy, has organised the painting of some stunning Kloof Frog murals under the Elizabeth Bridge, in central Kloof, to further attempts at raising awareness for them.
“I’m quick to admit that I wasn’t too fond of frogs when I started my post-graduate studies! But they have now been the focus of my career for the past 14 years. I am a Zoologist by degree and specialise in Herpetology – the study of amphibians and reptiles. I attended Potchefstroom University, which has an excellent frog research group, and it was not long until my love and fascination for amphibians grew as I learnt more about them and studied their behavior. I have worked for the Endangered Wildlife Trust since 2012, running their amphibian conservation projects throughout South Africa. Raising awareness to start changing behavior is a key part of our work.”
Image supplied by Gifford Duminy
The Kloof Project has had a long-standing relationship with local artist, Giffy Duminy, and has helped him get permission and funding for painting many of the walls around Kloof, including those under the Elizabeth bridge (so, if you see a guy with a few cans of spray paint, under any Kloof bridge, please don’t call the police – he has permission to paint!)
As an artist Giffy is responsible for many of the bright and beautiful murals of indigenous birds and plant life in KwaZulu-Natal. This current project is, however, of particular importance to him as he has a deep passion to connect people with nature through his art.
“The more I paint and learn about nature, the more fascinated I become. The diversity, shapes and different species that play different roles really fascinate me, and so I aim to bring people closer to nature through my art.
I feel that people are very busy in their daily lives and they don’t have the time to go out into nature and really see the beauty that is found in there. Which is why I try bring elements of nature closer by adding them to large walls, helping people easily see nature in its magnificence. I try to capture the essence of that beauty and bring it to people in a public place. I really appreciate the efforts The Kloof Project have made in helping me achieve this vision”
If you are interested in viewing more of his work, you can read about the different locations he’s painted at here. And if you’re interested in watching him paint, you’re likely to catch him on a rainy day, working on non-profit work. You can also watch him paint two local frogs, at the Leap Day event, on the 29th Feb at Iphiti Nature Reserve.
Currently, his most recent painting is of aloes and sunbirds, at the Philakade care home in Embo township.
If you’d like to help him with non-profit projects like this, feel free to donate cans of spray paint (you get in touch with us to arrange this).
Philakade Care Home Mural, images supplied by Gifford Duminy
Why the Kloof Frog?
Image featuring the Kloof Frog, supplied by Gifford Duminy
Jeanne and Giffy decided on painting the Kloof Frog because they wanted to bring something local and special to the community to help raise awareness in the lead up to Leap Day for Frogs 2020. And so they decided that this would be a good idea to remind people to keep frogs top of mind in their everyday actions.
The Kloof Frog was the obvious choice for this project – discovered near Mariannhill in 1912 and named after its ravine habitat – it is a highly endangered species and is specially adapted to rocky, forest streams. It has especially modified toes to help it navigate between rocks, vegetation and is a good swimmer too. It lays very distinct egg clumps above the water, which Giffy has painted too. Look out for these beautiful images the next time you drive past!
Using this local species to highlight the threats of habitat loss, due to development and the pollution of water – which face many frogs species – will hopefully get people thinking more about the smaller fauna found, as a first step towards changing behaviors that impact the environment.
How You Can Help
While the extinction of many frog species may seem overwhelming, there’s plenty you can do to help.
Here are a few ideas:
- Learn more – there are excellent guide books and even an app on the frogs of South Africa:
- Help dispel myths or negative superstitions surrounding frogs (they are not bad luck!).
- Host your own fundraiser. You could sell frog art or hold a bake sale with frog-shaped cakes and cookies and give the proceeds to EWT.
- Clean up a local frog habitat. You can speak to EWT to find out how to do this.
- Be conscious in your choices and don’t use toxic chemicals or cleaning products, at home or work, that can make their way into fresh water systems
- Make sure that the herbicides and pesticides that you use in your garden are safe for fresh water environments.
- Create a frog-friendly habitat in your garden by keeping it indigenous and installing a simple, shallow pond.
- Help raise awareness about the importance of frog conservation through flyers, posters or preparing your own lesson about them at school.
- If you see frogs or frog eggs in your garden, do not interfere with them. Snap a photo and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d love to know if you plan on getting involved and if so, how you’ll be participating in the Leap Day event. Click on the ‘share to’ buttons below, tag @TheKloofProject and share your plans with us on social media.
Blog courtesy of The Brand Collective.
The Scadoxus flower (also painted underneath the Elizabeth Bridge) is a good host breeding plant for Kloof Frogs. These plants provide good attachment surfaces for the frogs to lay their eggs. Image supplied by Gifford Duminy.
Image featuring The Kloof Frog’s cluster of frog eggs. Supplied by Gifford Duminy