Did you know that frogs are one of the most threatened groups of animals on our planet? Take a leap of action and spare these amphibians a thought on 25 February when we celebrate Leap Day for Frogs. By Arnold Ras

There are 6,732 frog and toad species worldwide, but many are in danger of disappearing. Since 2012, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Amphibian Programme (TAP) has been spotlighting frogs. Leap Day for Frogs, held annually at the end of February, aims to create awareness around these creatures’ loss of habitat. On Friday, 24 February, take part in the fun in Durban and you could help break a Guinness World Record!

Wild talked to Dr Jeanne Tarrant who heads the Threatened Amphibian Programme and we were delighted to learn what special creatures frogs are.

Why should we celebrate Leap Day for Frogs?

It’s all about realising that we have an amazing diversity of frogs in South Africa, from our mountain grasslands to wetlands to rivers and even deserts. When people think about frogs, normally the toads we find in our gardens come to mind, but SA has an incredible array of frog species – 125 species in total. This we have to celebrate, but also the fact that they are on our doorstep. Frogs are cool because you can find them in your back garden. Kids are crazy about frogs, and somehow, when we get older, we lose that. With Leap Day for Frogs we are bringing some of that joy and awareness back.

Bubbling Kassina-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Bubbling kassina by Jeanne Tarrant

Which SA frog species are in trouble?

There are 20 species listed as threatened across SA – vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered, according to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. One of TAP’s main focal species is the endangered Pickersgill’s reed frog that occurs only along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. They are very rare, found in just 25 isolated wetlands. We are working towards restoring and protecting several of these wetlands in the Durban area.

Then, the critically endangered Amathole toad in the Eastern Cape’s Amathole Mountains of which we have seen a total of just seven adults since 2011 (and before that none were seen since 1998). We are working towards protecting grassland habitat for this species near Hogsback. Other project species include the endangered Kloof frog in KZN and the Eastern Cape, which is restricted to forested rivers, and the Western Cape’s endangered western leopard toad, which is impacted by road kill during its breeding season. It’s important to note that frogs are mostly endangered due to loss and fragmentation of habitat as well as pollution of fresh water, alien invasive species (both plants and fish) and disease.

Male Pickersgills frog-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Male Pickersgill’s reed frog by Nick Evans

Kloof frog-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Kloof frog (and its eggs below) by Nick Evans

Kloof frog nest-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

What are some fascinating frog facts?

  • Africa’s largest frog is the goliath frog from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It can reach a weight of up to 3kg. Pretty big for a frog! The smallest frog is called the Paedophryne amanuensis, meaning ‘little toad’. It’s only 7mm long and occurs in Papua New Guinea.
  • Most people think a frog’s life cycle includes a tadpole phase, but some frogs are direct developers: they go directly from egg to froglette. In South Africa we have several species that have no free-swimming tadpole phase. For example, rain frogs lay their eggs in the ground and don’t need any open water. The tadpoles wiggle around in their foamy nest under the ground and eventually become froglettes without having any free-swimming tadpole phase.
Mozambique rain frog-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Mozambique rain frog by Luke Verburgt

Your favourite frog?

The Natal tree frog – they are beautiful, very chilled and easy to find. This is quite a handsome little chap!

What can we, the public, do to help frogs?

The nice thing about frogs is that we can actually do something. Because their main threat is loss of habitat, we can create suitable frog havens in our gardens. Even a very small pond or water feature will attract frogs. Indigenous vegetation is important as this will lure insect life for the frogs to eat. It’s worth remembering that frogs play a big role in pest control. Frogs’ second biggest threat is pollution, so be aware not to use any harmful garden chemicals or pesticides.

Desert Rain Frog-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Desert rain frog by Jeanne Tarrant

Where in our national parks can we see interesting frog species?

  • Visitors to the Kruger National Park can look out for the ornate frog with some very cool patterns and colours. Here you will also find the foam nest frog basking out in the sun.
  • Table Mountain National Park is home to the western leopard toad and the endangered Cape platanna.
  • In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park giant bullfrogs are quite the sight. And when they breed… It’s always an awesome experience.
Foam nest frog-Leap Day for Frogs-Endangered Wildlife Trust

Foam nest frog by Nick Evans

Break a record!

Join in the Leap Day for Frogs celebrations and help the Endangered Wildlife Trust break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog. Make sure you are at the Durban Beachfront Promenade on 24 February at 10:00. See their Facebook page for more information.