The Amphibian Avenger – Lucy Cooke
We’re proud to feature guest blogger, Lucy Cooke, The Amphibian Avenger, who tells us about herself, what her mission is, and how we can all help.
I love frogs. I always have. As a small child I became fascinated by the miracle of metamorphosis, catching and studying tadpoles like a true proto frog geek. As an adult studying zoology at Oxford the astonishing diversity of amphibian life seemed to me to most eloquently illustrate the incredible adaptive power of evolution.
When I heard about the global amphibian crisis I was completely horrified and keen to do something about it. I discovered that most of my friends didn’t know that over a third of amphibians are going extinct or about the horrors of the Chytrid fungus. It made me aware of how little press amphibians get compared with birds and mammals so I decided that, as a writer and filmmaker, the best thing I could do would be to spread the word. So for the last few months I have been traveling around Latin America researching stories for a documentary on the crisis and writing a blog about my findings. I’ve been to some amazing places, met some inspirational characters, and discovered some truly awesome frogs. And it’s not over yet.
I started my trip by joining an expedition into the Patagonian wilderness with ZSL [Zoological Society of London] scientists to search for Darwin’s frog – the last of the gastric- or throat-brooding frogs left on the planet and the only species of animal (other than the seahorse) in which the male gets pregnant. After the eggs are fertilised the male gobbles them up and 8 weeks later he burps up baby frogs.
I was lucky enough to see and film a daddy Darwin’s frog carrying several tadpoles in his throat sack. It was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen – a mass of tadpoles wriggling in a frog’s belly – it looked like something out of the movie Alien. It gave me goose bumps to witness something so very special but sadly so very endangered. Darwin’s frog is threatened by habitat destruction and also the rampant spread of the Chytrid fungus. It would be a devastating loss to biodiversity for such an extraordinary animal to disappear off the planet.
Since then I have licked poison dart frogs in Colombia, visited infested frog farms in Uruguay and hunted mass murdering toads in Chile.
But probably the most shocking story I have come across is that of the endangered Lake Titicaca toad, also known as the aquatic scrotum frog after its exceedingly wrinkly appearance. This monster of the deep has become the key ingredient for Peruvian backstreet Viagra. In downtown Lima I filmed juice bars where they put this toad in a blender and then drink it. A fashion which is pushing this unique amphibian to the brink of extinction.
Drinking frog frappe in downtown Lima from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.
I’ve still got Panama and Costa Rica to go and will be posting from these two countries that have already been forced to brave the first wave of Chytrid. So if you like frogs then follow my blog – I think you’ll enjoy my adventure. Frogs need champions to help raise their profile and the necessary funds to save them. So, please spread the word amongst your non-frog loving friends – it’s written not just for frog geeks and they may well learn something new and start to care about the little green guys nearly as much as me.
To follow Lucy’s adventure on her blog, click here.