The White-lipped Frog, or Hylarana labialis, saying 'Hello there!'
It is wonderfully refreshing to be able, after some hours of data entry, to turn to the person next to you and say, ‘Let’s go frogging.’
In this case the lucky girl was RIMBA student volunteer Syuhada, or Syu, currently halfway through her exams.
We each had only been frogging once before; I joined a session by UM’s esteemed herpetologist, Daicus Belabut, while Syu assisted Khaeril Zach, educationist and naturalist, during Biodiversity Week’s frogging session. We knew no more than three species of amphibians between the two of us.
But you don’t need years of experience to go frogging. I dug up a 6-Volt torch (which took us about 20 minutes to figure out how to insert the battery) and Syu her spanking new camera, which she had been meaning to bring out for a spin.
Hylarana labialis in amplexus, or mating position. The female is bigger than stronger than the male, as she has to support his weight over hours or even days!
We didn’t have to go far, either. It was twilight in the courtyard of Rimba Ilmu and the pond, a daytime centrepiece of ornamental water plants, was, judging by some very lively sounds, a fauna bonanza by night.
Initially we could only spot frogs when they moved; more accurately, the moment after they jumped out of sight. But no one ever finds Wally by turning the page too fast; as we stood still and stared hard, we started seeing frogs everywhere.
We gawked at a mating pair and got close to tiny tree frogs clinging onto reed stems. We had shy frogs who initially hopped off lily pads when we shone our torchlight on them, only to float back up with legs outspread and stare curiously back at the humans shrieking in excitement.
A Four-Lined Tree Frog, or Polypedates leucomystax, staying still for the camera.
What’s the point of frogging if we don’t know the species we come across? It’s about the thrill of discovery amid the uncertainty of non-discovery, even when they’re just a couple of frogs. No science book or photograph or video is a substitute for coming nose-to-nose with a tiny frog making noises like softly bubbling water, although you might say that Syu’s pictures are pretty awesome.
And you always have the option of consulting books or the Internet once you get back home. For us, we called upon the great Daicus, who obligingly identified the frogs by scientific and common names.
You can try frogging anywhere with clean water—the longkang outside your house is a good start, provided it’s not too polluted. As with us, all you need is a torchlight and some patience. If you take pictures, feel free to post them on RIMBA’s Facebook, and we can identify them together!
Happiest when surrounded by books, Vanessa Ting finds herself thriving in the no-less-fascinating world of conservation biology. This mostly involves exponential (learning and topographical) curves, tagging behind ardent, energetic botanists and zoologists. She can be reached at email@example.com.