I was quite amused when first invited to go ‘frogging’. It was while working as a school-teacher at a lodge in the Sabi Sands. Our head ranger, Kate was taking out two trainee rangers to introduce them to the amphibian world. They arrived kitted out with headlamps, gumboots and frog identification books. ‘Do you like frogs?’ I was asked by one of them. In all honesty I had never really thought about it. ‘I think so, I replied.’ Deciding to join them didn’t take much convincing, especially if it meant that I could sit in the trackers seat at the front of the vehicle…
Little compares to the thrill of driving out into the bush at night in an open vehicle. There is a brilliant, adrenalin-inducing freedom that comes with looking up at the millions of stars above and feeling utterly insignificant compared to the vastness of the universe.
We stop at a small reedy dam and in the dimmed headlights I see a hyena slinking off into the darkness and shiver a little. I have never held a frog before and feel slightly repelled at the thought – but I have an important reputation to uphold, that of brave and wild bush girl…
All at once, my senses come alive with the raucous chorus of frogs. I squelch my way through the sticky mud and reeds with nervous anticipation … suddenly I see it — a tiny alien looking creature — a silent salamander with two tightly shut eyes. I wonder if he thinks I can’t see him? Like a young child in a game of hide and seek, in full view but thinking that if he can’t see out, then he can’t be seen. Slowly I approach the little frog, MY little frog, and then… ‘Got ya!’. Inside my tightly cupped hands the creature is a little bouncing maniac. My heart is jumping with delight and I try desperately to lift my feet that have disappeared into the mud with my gumboots…
Back on dry land I present my first catch – a painted reed frog. Only about 2,5 cm long, I marvel at its beautiful colours, the miniature suckers on its feet and its unrelenting determination to jump out of the bucket.
‘All this excitement for a frog?’, you may ask. Quite honestly, yes – but much of what adds to the heightened thrill of frogging is simply the novel adventure of being out in the bush at night. The pure satisfaction of being in touch with nature, and of course, the added element of danger … watch out for snakes, hippos and crocodiles!
What you need to know…
- Dress warmly and protect yourself from mosquitos.
- Wear gumboots and use a headlamp rather than a torch so that both hands are free for frog-catching.
- With a few exceptions, frogs are nocturnal.
- Approach a calling site as silently as possible and if in a group, it is best to spread out. If you hear a frog call stop, freeze and wait for it to begin again as frogs will fall silent if frightened.
- Frogs should be held for a short time only – they have very sensitive skin.
- Put the frogs in a bucket or a clear plastic bag containing water and some vegetation. This should be done as quickly and gently as possible.
- Don’t put different species in the same bag as one of them may kill the other.
- Do not leave frogs in a plastic bag/bucket for more than one hour.
- Always release the frog as close as possible to where it was found.
- Get hold of a frog identification book and learn more about these interesting amphibians. This will add enormous value to your frogging experience.
- Use a black pen to write the species’ name on the plastic packet you have put it in.
- You are most likely to see frogs during the rainy season, as this is when male frogs establish and defend breeding sites and call competitively to attract mates.
- If you are in a nature reserve, you can suggest frogging as an activity to do with your ranger and he/she may be willing to take you.
- Your own garden pond may be just as good for frogging as swamps, wetlands, rivers and dams in protected areas.
- Be patient! Frogs can be hard to see even when you can hear them … it takes some perseverance.
- There are about 3 400 frog species world-wide and 130 of these occur in Southern Africa.