09/11/14

Bullfrogs, Toads and Grey Tree Frogs in Massachusetts

The story continues with Jack Stearns, a scientist and meteorologist in Massachusetts, who had rescued a Bullfrog (Bartholomew) last Winter, updates us on his progress along with a discovery of Grey Tree Frogs in the area.
 

Bart must be happy back in his pond as my wife hears deep croaking when she walks by the pond at lunch time. It has to be Bart! Also seen has been a big bullfrog near the spot where we let him go and he makes quite a splash when he jumps into the pond.
 
Another story involves a Gray Tree Frog. My wife works as a receptionist and is located in a huge lobby which has a big indoor garden, complete with trees and many plants. A couple of years ago a Gray Tree Frog got in and took up residence and proceeded to serenade the guards at night. It took them months to figure out what the noise was since the chirping resonates in the big lobby. He only hibernated for two months and came out in February to start singing again. It was weird to see snow falling and hearing this frog chirp. In fact, that was his name, Chirp.

He disappeared in the spring and we figure he got out the same way he got in, under the door that is right by the indoor garden.

Grey Tree Frog in Massachusetts by Jack Stearns
 
Well it looks like history is repeating itself. Above is a picture of a very young tree frog who got into the lobby. After this picture was taken he proceeded to scurry up the wall behind him into the indoor garden. Apparently a few others have been seen entering as well, especially at night. No noise yet, but I figure that by early spring there will be another chorus of tree frogs in the solarium. There is plenty for them to eat as they have been observed close to the outdoor window, snagging bugs that land there.
 
The frog population may be declining but not around where my wife works. The underground garage has lots of toads in the summer season who know that bugs are attracted by the lights and the toads come in for a quick meal. Everyone is careful of the toads when walking around the garage and there have been very few fatalities.
 
— Jack Stearns

09/2/14

Hawaii’s Inhumane Frog Policy

I received yet another call from someone distressed about coqui tree frogs on her property. No, she wasn’t wanting to find out how to kill the frogs. She was trying to find out how to keep them and resist aggressive neighbors wanting the frogs destroyed.

For many people in Hawaii, as in Puerto Rico, the coqui frog is considered an adorable creature, singing at night and improving the environment by eating insect pests. They can get loud in large numbers, but for those who enjoy the sounds of wildlife, the coqui chirp is soothing and creates a white noise that aids sleep. 

However, the Hawaiian government has passed laws to vilify coqui frogs as a noisy environmental menace, making it illegal to “harbor” or transport coquis within the state. According to the law, coquis frogs are pests by definition, and anyone enjoying them does so at his own peril. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to stop the spread of the frogs, which now reside happily on the Big Island’s east side and in limited areas of the other islands.

Of course, if the coqui frogs were native to Hawaii, they would be protected, not killed. The sound would be appreciated and promoted, as it is in Puerto Rico.

coqui frog in Hawaii

However, in today’s Hawaii, only native species are valued. Introduced species are now regarded as illegal aliens, and harboring these aliens is against the law. Laws defining the coqui as a “pest” allow the cruel slaughter of these tiny, harmless creatures, bypassing humane treatment laws.

The Good Shepherd Foundation, of which I am the director, believes that cruelty to animals is unacceptable, regardless of whether the animals are native or not. In 2001 we started a program to counter the anti-coqui propaganda, called CHIRP, or the Coqui Hawaiian Integration and Reeducation Project. Acceptance, we believe, is better than an endless environmental war against the frogs.

Over the years we have been contacted by many residents who found the frogs desirable on their property, but who were being harassed by neighbors who did not yet have the frogs and wanted them eradicated. This meant having one’s property sprayed with citric acid, which kills plants as well as coquis, lizards, insects, and other non-target species. The acid burns the victims to death.

Anti-coqui hysteria has made people fearful of admitting they like the coquis, faced with the unfortunate choices of harassment, or letting eradicators poison their property.

Some residents would like to remove the coquis to avoid the drama, but don’t want to kill the coquis in the process. These humane-minded people are faced with another dilemma. Moving coquis is a crime. The government has made it so people can only kill coquis, either with citric acid or by cooking or freezing the live frogs. You can’t legally catch the frogs and release them somewhere else where there are other frogs.

This means the Hawaiian government has made it illegal to treat the coquis humanely. It forces residents to either be cruel to the frogs, or to break the law and illegally release the frogs elsewhere, which many people do.

The most recent phone call was from a woman who wanted to save the lone coqui on her property from a certain death. A neighbor heard the frog and reported it to the homeowner’s association, which was dispatching an eradicator right away. The neighbor also complained that this same woman was feeding non-native birds, and threatened to have the birds shot.

For those who love wildlife, Hawaii is no longer a paradise. Species are not valued for their beauty and other positive qualities, or for the biological diversity they bring to these volcanic islands. Instead, they are valued solely for being “native,” and are killed solely for being introduced.

It is a war on wildlife. Property owners, residents, and visitors who value wildlife for what it is, regardless of whether or not it was introduced, are victims of this war.

For more, see our website, www.HawaiianCoqui.org.

Guest post: Sydney Ross Singer is a medical anthropologist, author, and director of the Good Shepherd Foundation.  He lives on a coqui frog sanctuary with his wife and son on the Big island of Hawaii.

08/28/14

Eco-Interview: John Hamilton, Children’s Book Illustrator and Conservationist

John Hamilton, children's book illustrator with chameleon

When did this all begin? Please tell us a bit about your work.

I am an artist and illustrator based in Manchester UK. My artwork has always been narrative /story-based, using oil on canvas, printmaking, and large-scale collage. My work includes characters acting out various scenarios and role play, as if from a film or stage play. I often include animals or people dressed as animals. I recently had a children’s picture book published called “The Boy Who Really Really Really loves Lizards” aimed at 3-7 year olds.

Go quietly so as not to wake the butterflies' oil on canvas, 2013

What is your educational background and what led to this creative path?

My background is in Fine Art. I did my degree back in 1990 and have been a practicing artist since then. A couple of years ago I did a Masters degree in Children’s Book Illustration. For the final project I wrote the story about my son Oliver who was obsessed by visits to the Manchester Museum, From the age of two he has loved the museum and would spend hours there.

inside the vivarium - illustration from the book

What are some challenges you have faced and how did you deal with them?

When I was doing research at the museum for the book, I became friendly with Andrew Gray, the curator of the vivarium. He specializes in the conservation of frogs and has done a lot of work to project many endangered species from Costa Rica and other places. His passion and commitment to the Museum is amazing. He was also responsible for getting the museum to publish my book which is a playful look at my boys obsession with the museum and the lizards, frogs and snakes. I think we saw it as a way to engage the younger visitors and to perhaps encourage them to become aware of the conservation involved. The museum features heavily in the book.

Today Oliver is going to the museum - illustration from the book

What can people do to help this cause?

The museum allows the public to sponsor the frogs and to contribute to the cost of research and support for the museum. Oliver recently sponsored a tiger monkey frog and got to meet it and hold it at the museum! You can also buy my book too!

Oliver with the Tiger Monkey Frog at the Manchester museum

How do you reach your targeted audience?
Is it through your website, advertising or social media or another route? Which is most effective and why?

I am trying to promote my book at the moment and I have been doing that through Facebook and Twitter as they both allow you to reach a large volume of people very quickly. It is also a good way of keeping in touch with people and informing them of events and new work. There is also a website for the book where I post features, reviews and workshop projects done with schools and colleges.

school workshop with John Hamilton

How do you keep the audience engaged over time?

Updates on Facebook and Twitter and by creating new links with organizations and groups with similar interests.

Tell us about your events around the world and some of the campaigns you have started.

The book is only available in the UK so that has been my main target but I would love it to go further afield! I have had emails from people in South Africa, Australia, France and the USA who have received the book, many as presents from the UK – so that is exciting!

children looking at tadpoles in manchester museum

What is in the works for the future? What haven’t you yet tackled, but will want to do soon?

I am working on another picture book possibly about butterflies or snails! I am hoping the museum may show an interest in publishing this one too. I want to try and make this one a bit more factual and to include facts and information to allow children to continue their interest in the subject.

Would you like to add a bit more?

No. Just a thank you for the opportunity to talk about the book and hopefully reach a few more people and encourage some more young people to really, really, really love lizards and frogs!

Boy who really really really loves lizards

To find John Hamilton online:

Website: http://www.johnhamiltonillustration.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tbwrrrll
Twitter: @JohnHamilton17

For information on the Manchester Museum and their work with frogs and about sponsoring the frogs visit:
http://frogblogmanchester.com

08/10/14

Gecko In Turks & Caicos

The island of Providenciales in Turks & Caicos is one of my favorite vacation spots and I have been there many times. The sand is pinkish white and as soft as talcum powder. The sea is the perfect color of turquoise and crystal clear. When you enter the water all you see are little fish and if lucky, while swimming, the local dolphin that comes over to greet visitors.

Turks & Caicos beach plants and sea beyond. Photo by Susan Newman

Turks & Caicos beach plants and sea beyond. Photo by Susan Newman

On one of my trips as I was unpacking my things, I noticed a little gecko in my room and just left him to wander around. At the time, I didn’t know that much about them, but he/she was so cute, I didn’t bother it. Over the next few days, my friends were complaining about the mosquitoes and kept asking me, how come you aren’t bitten up like we are? I didn’t really know.

This went on for days until I told them about the little gecko in my room, who like to come inside where the temperature is to their liking and are safe from predators. OH! They said, it’s eating the mosquitoes in your room, that’s why you aren’t having the problem we are.

Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) by  Thomas Brown

Tropical House Gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) by Thomas Brown

Well, it is many years later and I know more about geckos, salamanders and frogs. I wanted to share this little story because most people wonder how the decline of frogs and amphibians directly effects them. As you can see, just one gecko in my room on vacation, made all the difference for me having a more comfortable trip than my friends. Just imagine how insects will bother us if there are no frogs or geckos around to eat them?