First a disclosure… I adore frogs. All frogs, not just this exquisite Western Ghats Rhacophorus photographed by Sunil Sachi in a Chikmagalur coffee plantation.
But my love for frogs is not the primary reason I believe that Amphibia are key to our efforts to survive the worst impacts of climate change. Of course it’s complicated, but here is how I explain it to kids — my primary constituency.
Frogs are amazing creatures. They have lived on Earth for around 250 million years. Most live three lives in one, first as an egg, which turns into a tadpole, which then turns into a frog. These amphibians have thin skins and can absorb water and oxygen from their surroundings. If the skin dries, the frog dies.
Though frogs are survivors, they are having a tough time surviving human beings who dump poisons in their water and pump too much carbon into the atmosphere. This ends up drying their moist habitats and also exposes them to deadly diseases.
Scientists say that like frogs, humans too will soon face water and disease problems because of climate change. The best way to keep frogs from dying, suggest herpetologists (scientists who study frogs), is to protect their water sources including wetlands, rivers, lakes and ponds. This will benefit us too, because these habitats store carbon, reduce flooding and supply us with water during droughts. Just this one act of keeping parts of our planet natural will help humans to overcome some of the worst impacts of climate change.
There is much more. Like living, breathing alarm calls, frogs are sending us early warnings of problems, giving us time to defend ourselves before it is too late. Frogs are also nature’s pest-controllers, capable of consuming their own body weight in mosquitoes every day. From the secretions on frogs’ skins scientists extract an array of life-saving medicines that protect humans from deadly microbes. Beyond this, most kids hardly need convincing and nor should adults. As the first vertebrates to colonise land, amphibians were the first to hear airborne sounds through evolved tympanums. Hopefully, we will not be the ones to force them to let out their last and final call.
First published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXVIII No. 8, August 2018.