November 22, 2011
Australia’s loss of frog species is, I believe, the worst in the world. We have lost the gastric brooding frog. The corroboree frog, a species that lives in the few really cold parts of the country, is the subject of directed conservation efforts, yet one wonders how it will cope with climate change. Here is a flyer (hopper?) for a US frog poetry competition, because the problem isn’t confined to Australia. Click to enlarge. Here’s their web-site. I have no connection with this group, but it seems like a good way of encouraging people to think about conservation; I’m putting the poster up at my daughter’s school.
Following below is a poem about a wonderful night when I saw a road covered with frogs in a jumping carpet. It is biologically inaccurate, but I tried to capture the sense of wonder that came with what seemed like a million frogs. I wonder how long we will continue to see this type of natural phenomenon?
Frogs at Durras
We bought a house, feeble fibro shack,
walls thin as a yacht’s, teetering near the sea.
The second time we drove there, slowly,
tentatively, nosing towards ownership,
a rough jagged rain sawed through twilight.
We wondered if the house could survive.
Turning the corner, our eyes jumped,
jerked at a million tiny frogs revelling in rain,
the black streaming street a foaming river.
Each raindrop a watery egg, containing
tadpole, exploding into perfect frog
as it hit the tarmac, transmogrified.
I ran ahead of inching car, scooping throbbing fistfuls,
placing them on nature strip, dividing green from black.
And still they splashed and clung to sodden tar,
each splayed finger reading braille on the rough road;
indecipherable invitation to party, or to climb, perversely,
the dark warm curves of the sudden crushing car.
Three years later, we sit in heat, and await the frogs
never seen since the Walpurgis abandon, that abundant night.
Sometimes we have heard them, piping, tinkling, muted bells,
signalling to each other, chirruping reminders
as they wait beneath rocks, huddled in just damp dark
that all droughts must break. Our house still stands.
August 18, 2011
Trail of disinformation
‘Does it really matter, love? After all, we’re talking about a snail, aren’t we? I put down bait for them. Or squash them. It’s them or my veggies.’ Bill smiled, ate a peanut, and drank a little more beer.
‘It’s a special snail. A green one. Tiny.’ I sounded vaguely desperate, and I knew it.
‘But it’s still a snail, green, orange or purple. Rainbow even. I just don’t see the point, worrying about an ugly little bugger like that.’
Bill had hit the nail, or the snail shell, on the head. We were just talking about ‘ugly little buggers’. We wanted to prevent the development of a proposed mine because of the presence of rare miniature green snails, only found in one small pocket of rain-forest. If it were koalas, once the subject of a bounty, we would have been national heroes. A rare species of bird would be understandable. Everyone can see beauty in a bird. But a mollusc is quite a different kettle of fish. Too far beneath our eyes to count. Too near our feet.
It was Jennifer, my best friend and fellow conservationist, who came up with the idea to give our campaign to save the habitat of the endangered snail a certain indefinable…je ne sais quoi.
I knew we were onto a winner the next time I ran into Bill at the pub. He was reading the newspaper, the one that Jennifer had just leaked her ‘secret information’ to. It trembled in his hands. I noticed that he wasn’t smiling, or cracking jokes like errant carapaces amongst the beans. Indeed, he seemed a little angry, a little red in the face.
Bill turned the paper over so I could read the article he had just read. I had to cover my nascent smile as I read:
‘French offer to take Aussie snails
This paper has heard that an offer has been made, through official channels, for all the endangered miniature green snails in the area currently being considered for the development of a new mine to be removed and relocated to France, at the expense of the French Government. It is hoped that the species may prove edible.’
‘Bloody cheek’, said Bill, as he took a long drink of beer. ‘They’ve got their own snails. Poor little buggers. Why do they want to steal ours?’
He’d forgotten his previous comments about pellets and gardening. We had wrapped the miniature green snail in the flag, rendered it as Australian as the kangaroo. We eat them, but that’s different, apparently.
Despite vigorous denials from the French embassy, the story stuck. The public was outraged. Next week, the Government officially declared the snail habitat protected.
And deep in the bush, the tiny snails act out their slimy lives, safe from the development of a new tin mine. And of course, safe from any forced repatriation to the restaurant rich and risky boulevards of Paris.