2014 02 28 Pickersgills Reed Frog
The Pickergill's reed frog is a critically endangered species endemic to the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Watch our Earth Touch Insider episode where we meet the conservationists trying to save this unique species.

Frog catching is a tricky business. I'm not talking about the kind of frog-seeking researchers do when they head out into a wetland armed with scientific intentions. I'm talking about home-based frog catching. The kind where you scamper around on your hands and knees wielding a plastic container trying to capture an unwanted amphibian visitor. Of course, the frog always evades capture, happily hopping under the couch while you curse and bump your head on the counter. By the time you've finally managed to get your new house-guest out of the door, you have to spend the next twenty minutes returning the furniture to its normal position. In the meantime another frog will inevitably jump into the lounge while your back is turned.

Despite the annoying interruption to the evening's TV schedule, I quite enjoy having these frogs pop in for a visit. You see, frogs are more important than you may have thought. Research shows that they are bioindicators, which means when frogs are around, the surrounding environment is probably pretty healthy. They are also a vital food source for a variety of predators and those that manage to stay off the menu do a pretty good job of controlling insect populations.

Unfortunately, habitat destruction, increasing levels of pollution in freshwater systems, disease and a changing climate are starting to have a devastating effect on frog populations. In South Africa, 29% of frog species are classified as critically endangered and they've earned the unwanted title of most threatened animals on earth.

So what can be done? Well the Endangered Wildlife Trust are on a mission to spread awareness about dwindling frog numbers. Their latest campaign, which was launched in the build up to Leap Day for Frogs on February 28th, draws focus on three of South Africa's most threatened species, the Amatole toad, the Pickersgill's reed frog, and the western leopard toad. Of course, Leap Frog Day, isn't only about these three species, but we just had to share the EWT's awesome posters putting into perpective how few of these frogs we have left.

Pickersgill's reed frog

2014 02 28 Pickersgills Reed Frog Poster

Tiny, critically endangered, and the subject of a lot of scientific interest, meet the Pickersgill's reed frog. Endemic to the coast of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, much of this frog's habitat has been lost to mining, agriculture and development. EWT are doing their best to learn more about the species's population size in the hopes of saving this unique amphibian. *Watch our Earth Touch Insider episode where we meet the conservationists trying to save the Pickersgill's reed frog.

Amathole toad

2014 02 28 Amathole Toad Poster

The Amathole toad is one seriously elusive animal. In the last 26 years, the species has been seen just twice and researchers are concerned that this toad is on its way out. Restricted to the montane grasslands of the Winterberg and Amathole mountains, they breed in temporary pools and seepages in upland grasslands during heavy rains, and their shy nature presents a particularly tricky challenge to researchers.

Western leopard toad

2014 02 28 Western Leopard Toad Poster

For two to five nights a year, the streets of Cape Town are scattered with western leopard toads. These exquisitely marked amphibians get their breeding done in a hurry - courting, mating and laying eggs in record time. It's a ritual that makes perfect sense. Except that human development is getting in the way. With the construction of roads and highways in and around the toads' breeding pools a lot of these animals succumb to speeding vehicles. Fortunately for the toads, volunteer groups are doing their best to control the traffic during the species's rampant breeding season.