Interview with Mary Jo Rhodes and Susan Newman from Frogs Are Green by Willi Paul
What do frogs symbolize? Now and in ancient times?
In many cultures, frogs are a symbol of good luck. They seem to appear magically after rain, and are connected with fertility and life. Their metamorphosis from tadpole to frog must have also seemed magical. In many cultures, frogs are also associated with transformation and resurrection.
The frog was important in ancient Egyptian culture, for example, because millions of frogs appeared after the annual inundation of the Nile, which brought fertility to otherwise parched lands. An Egyptian frog-goddess named Heqet is usually depicted as a woman, or as frog with a woman's head. She was associated with childbirth, fertility, and resurrection.
Frogs are important in modern cultures as well. Last summer in India several symbolic frog marriages took place in the hopes of bringing rain to areas with severe drought.
Frogs are often an indicator species of health or sickness in the ecosystem, right?
Lately we've read some articles debunking the claim that frogs are bioindicators. And yet frogs, with their permeable skin, are extremely vulnerable to chemical contaminants in the water. We've written a few posts on FROGS ARE GREEN about endocrine disrupters, chemicals that are found in common consumer products such as shampoos and soft plastic toys. Dr. Tyrone Hayes at University of California, Berkeley, has done studies that show the effects of very low levels of endocrine disrupters on frogs, including male frogs that developed eggs in their testes.
Now some of these effects are showing up in humans. Here is a recent article in the Guardian (UK) about how two-year olds might be at risk from these "gender bending" chemicals.
So, yes, we believe frogs are an indicator species. If your area was once alive at night with a chorus of frogs and now is silent, that is telling you something about the environmental health of the area. This is one of the main purposes of FROGS ARE GREEN--to alert people to that connection--and to spread the message that healthy frogs mean a healthy planet for all.
What's happening in both of your backyards, Susan and Mary Jo?!
Susan and I have city backyards. In the summer, Susan's backyard is planted with cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, basil and the grape vines are there along with other shrubberies. The backyard attracts all sorts of birds, mostly sparrows, morning doves and this summer we saw, starlings.
I have a city backyard that I like to keep kind of "messy." I love that over the years, it's attracted wildlife, particularly birds (although we did have an opossum family living in a window box one summer). I keep two birdbaths filled with water and I see birds drinking and splash in them everyday in the summer--mainly grackles, sparrows, and mourning doves. Squirrels drink from the birdbath, too. My yard is pretty shady, but I have roses, sedum, evergreen trees, and hydrangea. I also have grapevines and other vines growing on tall walls around the yard. I rarely use pesticides--even natural ones. I use the survival-of-the-fittest method of gardening. I stopped planting hostas, for example, because slugs found them irresistible. I planted ferns instead, which slugs and bugs seem to ignore.
Pesticides are not frog friendly, eh? What are some alternatives?
Pesticides are one of the biggest sources of chemical contamination, and yet there are many safe natural alternatives for home gardeners. In late winter we will begin to have posts about alternatives to pesticides (and we will be seeking Master Gardeners to write guest posts for us). In the meantime, here's a natural way to get rid of slugs from Oregon Live:
Make a trap by cutting openings (a can opener works well) in the sides of a container with a snap-on lid, such as a cottage cheese or margarine tub. Make the holes toward the open end of the container. Sink the container in the soil so holes are just above the soil surface. Pour in a half-inch of beer or yeast mixture (2 tablespoons flour, 1/2 teaspoon baker's yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar in 2 cups of warm water). Place lid on container. Dispose of your catch every few days, rinse and refill container.
Do you advocate keeping frogs as pets? If so, where do we buy them? How do we care for these creatures?
Frogs Are Green generally doesn't advocate keeping frogs as pets. Exotic frog pets deplete wild populations and pet frogs are often released into areas they aren't native to, causing problems to native populations, including the spread of disease. We recommend that if people want frogs as pets, they should get one that is captive-born, and preferably, is a species native to their area.
What success, if any, has the Princess's Rainforest Project meant to frogs?
We love the Prince's Rainforest Project because a cute frog named Orifiel (which means angel of the forest) is it's mascot. The project has made several videos (available on YouTube) starring Orifiel with actors, comedians, sports stars, even the Dalai Lama. These entertaining videos are helping to spread the word about the need to save the rainforest. Princes and frogs have a long association, and we think this particular partnership is wonderful.
Is there an amphibian extinction crisis? Do tell!
We are in the midst of what ecologists and conservation biologists warn might be the early phase of the sixth great extinction episode in Earth's history. Over one-third of amphibians are on the brink of extinction. Causes include habitat loss, global climate change, over-exploitation, introduced species that can eliminate native populations, environmental contaminants, and infectious diseases such as the chytrid fungus, which can quickly wipe out an entire species of frogs.
While a lot of the news is gloomy, there is so much that individuals can do to help frogs. In Ireland, for example, farmers were paid a small amount to create frog ponds on their land to help the endangered Natterjack Toad, and so far it seems to be helping. In England, volunteers help protect toads as they cross roads during annual migrations.
At FROGS ARE GREEN, we offer lots of ways you can help frogs. Please hop over and get involved!
Connect with Frogs Are Green -
Mary Jo and Susan -
info at frogsaregreen dot com