SPONSORED CONTENT by Sausage Tree Safari Camp
Very little compares to the sound of the African bush on a summer’s night. With a cacophony of calls from a myriad of creatures you may find yourself overwhelmed by the incredible auditory experience. Most intriguing of all those sounds are often the electronic-sounding beeps, bips and bops emitted by some of our smallest and most numerous inhabitants – frogs.
Frogs proliferate during the rainy, green season which is when they mate and reproduce, with ponds, waterholes, puddles and dams filled with tadpoles of all shapes and sizes. And you’ll frequently find them in and around Sausage Tree Safari Camp, especially after a downpour.
The three most frequently seen species here on the Balule Private Nature Reserve are the grey foam-nest tree frog, the bushveld rain frog and the painted reed frog.
The grey foam nest tree frog is a fascinating little amphibian. As its name implies it’s an arboreal frog and doesn’t really swim or spend time in water, although it does need the water to rehydrate. Its slightly bumpy skin changes colour in response to ambient temperature, ranging from white and pale grey to a mottled, patterned brown.
Insectivorous, they’ve got the reputation for having one of the most extreme mating rituals in the animal kingdom! A single, fertile female is literally ‘encased’ in males for hours on end, which cluster around her, using their back legs to help her whip a sticky liquid she secretes into a frothy foam. She lays up to 1,000 eggs into this foam ‘nest” which is located above a water source. The eggs are fertilised by the multiple males who surround her.
Listen to the call of a grey foam-nest tree frog
The foam stops the eggs from drying out until the tadpoles hatch and wriggle out, dropping into the water below to complete their metamorphosis.
Like many frogs, during the dry season the foam-nest tree frog has adapted to allow it to survive without water. Its skin, for example, is resistant to evaporation and they aestivate – meaning that they spend the hot, dry season in a prolonged state of torpor or dormancy.
The bushveld rain frog is about as different as its possible to get! Also insectivorous, it lives underground, emerging usually at night after heavy rains to find food and to mate. It’s an odd-looking frog, with a round, stumpy body, short little legs and an extraordinarily grumpy-looking face. It’s able to inflate its body if attacked, making it look even more comical.
Listen to the call of a bushveld rain frog
With its short little legs the male bushveld rain frog has a problem when it comes to mating, as its legs are not long enough to firmly grip the female. So the female secretes a kind of organic ‘glue’ from her back to help the male stay in place while mating. Stuck together, they burrow backwards into the soil in search of a moist spot in which to lay eggs, which hatch into froglets rather than tadpoles. After mating, a release agent is secreted to allow the frogs to separate!
The painted reed frog is the most colourful of the frogs found around Sausage Tree Safari Camp. It’s also one of the most common species in the area. The clue to their appearance is in their name, as they are colourful and intricately patterned. They emit a short, high-pitched whistling call which, if you are standing close to them, can actually make your ears ring! It’s this call that attracts females and the males are careful to select the best ‘call’ sites where they call from dusk to around midnight each night. Call sites are usually ponds or other water sources, although the males will also call from reeds and trees, calling consistently for successive nights.
Listen to the call of the painted reed frog
The females hear the call and make their way to the males, entering the pond and selecting a mate, laying eggs in the water which hatch into tadpoles a few days later and become fully formed frogs within eight weeks.