Every frog has its day
Who doesn’t remember Kermit the frog, one of the most lovable characters on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show?
Little do we know that Kermit’s real life friends are under threat due to human activities, namely habitat destruction, infectious disease, pollution and pesticides, climate change and invasive species.
So what did the scientific frog lovers do? Since 2009, they announced the last Saturday of April to be Save the Frogs Day.
The Frogs Day
Save The Frogs Day was conceived by Dr. Kerry Kriger, the founder and executive director of SAVE THE FROGS!, the world’s leading amphibian conservation organisation.
According to the official website of the celebration , this is the 6th year it has been celebrated and Malaysia is joining 23 other countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Czech Republic, and Estonia as part of a global effort to save the frogs.
Here in Sarawak, some 175 participants from 12 different countries namely Malaysia, Ukraine, German and Philippines leapt to Kubah National Park on April 26 for the third International Frog Race 2014 jointly organised by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, Sarawak Forestry Corperation and Save the Frogs!
Hold your horses PETA’s followers! No frogs were actually being raced during the event, so rest assured that the frogs are safe.
In fact it was a photography race where the participants were racing to capture as many photos of frogs as possible.
I know no more about frog than a frog knows about bed sheets. So for those who were oblivious about frogs like me were enlightened after joining The International Bornean Frog Race because the race included exhibitions and talks on amphibians and their conservation efforts given by frog experts.
The Frog Exhibition
The exhibition itself was both interesting and informative for participants. Besides a table full of frog merchandise from mouse pad to door stopper and even a frog loofah on display, research papers on frogs in our Borneo region were also available during the exhibition for visitors to brush up their scientific knowledge on frogs.
What is a photography race without photo exhibition? A small section of the exhibition was showing diverse species of frog photos.
The Frog Talk
Professor Indraneil Das is not a stranger in the world of frogs. He and his team from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) made world headlines back in 2011 for having rediscovered the long lost Borneon rainbow toad which was last sighted in 1924.
During the International Frog Race, Das gave the participants a glimpse of the world of frogs by delivering a presentation, “The Wonderful World of Frogs”
The presentation was a run through on how frogs influence ancient and present societies in all over the world. An example of fun fact Das shared was the Mayas use frog’s secretions for hallucinogenic sensations.
Photography enthusiasts were in for the treats during the International Frog Race because they were given a frog photography workshop by not just one but two photography experts; Hans Hazebrook and Associate Professor Zulkalnain Zainal Abidin.
Hazebrook is a nature photographer and writer. He co-authored several books on Borneo’s nature such as Danum Valley: The Rain Forest and A Guide Book to Bako National Park: Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.
He enlightened all the participants on how to take photos of frogs using camera phone, compact camera and DSLR camera.
According to Hazebrook, it is best to focus on the frogs’ eyes when taking photos of them.
As for Zulkalnain, it is about the details such as colours, shapes of the frogs. Focusing more on DSLR camera, he shared his know-how on frog photography on pros and cons of different hardware such as micro lens, extension tube and teleconverter in frog photography.
“The best picture is about the one behind the camera. Don’t forget that. Unless if you put it on ‘P’, program mode”, said Zulkalnain.
If there was anybody who thinks there is nothing left of Singapore’s nature then you are wrong. Dr Leong Tzi Ming, a researcher from Singapore briefed the participants on a number of frogs species found in Singapore and how they look like.
Besides showing photos of frogs, Leong also emphasized why we should care about the amphibians.
According to him, one of the reasons why we should study the amphibians is because they are a potential source of pharmaceutical and medical derivatives.
Ong Jia Jet introduced himself to the audience as a city boy from Penang who ended up studying amphibians in the jungle of Sarawak. Now, he is waiting for his master degree’s convocation end of this year.
Ong’s talk, “Once Upon a Time on Gunung Penrissen” was a presentation on his research for his master degree thesis in Gunung Penrissen on Ansonia latidisca, the Borneo Rainbow Toad.
In his research, Ong studied the toad’s diet and habitat. Ong also mentioned currently there is only a limited study on the Ansonia species.
He also let the participants heard the rare sound recording of the toad’s call which Ong managed to record during his research. The call was high pitched and prolong toward the end of the recording.
No one would have taught the sound came from a small toad, ranging in size from 30 to 50 mm in length.
The Frog Race
Before all the participants were all excited heading for the race, they were briefed the do’s and don’ts of frogging in national park by Taha Wahab from Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
The big three don’ts of frogging were, Taha reminded the participants were “Don’t pursue the frogs, don’t pick up frogs or take them home and don’t disturb the habitat you are in.”
That night when the clock strikes at 7, all participants were headed into the forest part of Kubah National Park. Just before the race, they need to dip their shoes in potassium permanganate solution. It was to prevent spread of fungus and disease to the populations.
There were three categories of the frog race namely; the most number of amphibians’ species found, rarest amphibian found and best amphibian photo taken for DLSR, compact camera and mobile phone.
Overall the third International Frog Race was a success in effort to raise awareness on different species of frogs out there and the current struggle to conserve these amphibians.
It also succeeded in bringing people from different countries for the event by listing the race as part of Sarawak Tourism Board’s events.
To have the event held at Kubah National Park was a good move because the 22 sq km park plays home for 61 species of amphibians out of more than 190 Borneon species. Highly diverse for a considerable small area of forest.
Don’t forget to head to The International Borneon Frog Race’s official Facebook page to check out the winners and their awesome wining frog photos at https://www.facebook.com/TheBorneanFrogRace.