Mike's Australia by Mike Dixon - HTML preview

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20 Tree Frog


In most countries, frogs are regarded as interesting but few people think of them as beautiful.  In Australia we adore frogs.  We photograph them, paint them and write poems about them.  That tells you a lot about our frogs.

Australia is home to many species and some are highly colourful.  The green tree frog stands out as one of the best loved and most appealing.  It lives in the warmer and wetter parts of the continent and, like most amphibians, its numbers are dwindling.

When we arrived in tropical North Queensland from chilly Canberra, thirty years ago, green tree frogs were plentiful.  They lived in our garden and their tadpoles developed in the pools of water that collected in the broad leaves of ornamental plants.

In the dry season, they survived by shrinking into compact forms.  When I first saw them in this state, I thought they were dead.  Attached to my garden wall, like desiccated corpses, they reminded me of the scarabs of ancient Egypt.

When the rainy season came, an extraordinary transformation took place.  The first downpour soaked their skins and their colour returned.  They stirred.  Long agile limbs reached out, suckered feet fastened onto wet surfaces and, within hours, they were back in the trees hunting for insects.  Soon they were going about the business of being responsible adults concerned with the survival of their species.

The tree frog is still with us but not in such spectacular numbers.  They have fallen victim to a malaise that is threatening amphibians worldwide.  There is some evidence that the threat is receding.  On a recent camping holiday in the rainforest I spoke to biologists monitoring frog numbers.  They were optimistic that a turning point had been reached with some species.

I have done my best to create suitable habitats for frogs in my garden.  I've put in shallow pools with trickle irrigation and I kill cane toads and other introduced species that are threatening native species.