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November 19, 2018

Croaking is a soothing rest from TV news

PRINCE CHARMING? Leaf-frog.
PRINCE CHARMING? Leaf-frog.

In a world in which newspaper headlines scream of international tensions, and in our world where all manner of news files are screaming political nonsense from most of our leaders, it is very easy for a man to forget that the elemental life of the earth goes on as usual. It is good for a man to remind himself of these things – that there are venerable stabilities which the insanities of most of our political leadership are not able to overthrow.

It is good, for instance, just to switch off the television for a while, turn off the radio, throw away the newspaper and go all-out into the warm darkness of your county and listen to the silence of Africa. It is good for a man to shift his attention for a while to something lovely and permanent – like the sound of a frog in a pond, in the dead of the night.

Most people have had contact with a frog in one way or other. These animals are some of the most visible and abundant, even in towns and cities. Next time you see one, take a keen look at it. With some knowledge of the life of a frog, you will find your mind drifting away to the wonders of nature, which is lovely and permanent.

The frog appreciates the universe in which it lives, chiefly in five ways. By sight, sound, smell and sensitivity to light and touch. On each side of the frog’s head is a protruding eye, its rotation controlled by six muscles, its lens tremendous and nearly spherical. This eye does not permit keen perception of stationary objects. But it gives immediate awareness of any kind of movement. The stir of a cricket, the dart of a dragonfly, the soundless progress of an earthworm through grass – these things the frog’s great protruding eyes will register. So big are the lenses of the eye of a frog that it can suffer accidents if the frogs were not able to retract them at will, into their sockets.

To further protect the inside of the eye, they have a third membrane – the nictitating membrane that supplements the two eyelids. If the eyelids are open and some objects touch the naked eye, the nictitating membrane covers the lens in a flash and saves it from scratches. Just like an extra lens cover of a camera.

The frog has no internal ear for hearing the movement of prey or the coming of an enemy. But behind each of its bulging eyes there is a broad tympanic membrane. Inside the auditory capsule lies an inner ear supplied by branches of auditory nerve.

As the tympanic membrane vibrates, waves of sound travel to this inner ear and transmit to the frog’s small convoluted brain an awareness of sound sensation. That is when the frog is on dry ground. Under water, the frog hears just like a fish. The sound waves travelling in the water are transmitted directly to the inner ear of the frog.

The frog’s fourth endowment is its delicate sensitivity to light, and which is not less important than the other senses. The frog’s body is, technically speaking, naked. Its skin is filmed by a thin covering of mucus, which restrict evaporation. It is for this reason that a frog must live in a damp place or near ponds and streams where they can readily immerse themselves. For without a constantly moist atmosphere or periodic ablution, their skin would quickly dry up and they would perish.

Even the very small forest-dwelling wood frogs, which only visit ponds or streams to lay eggs, spend most of their lives in thick undergrowth, and especially damp leaf mold and the humid interior of decaying stumps of wood. In nature, light will always transmit warmth, which in turn will dry up the moisture on the frog’s skin. You can appreciate how, then, light sensitivity plays a vital role in the life of a frog.

Equipped in this manner, then, the food the frog seeks will be the lesser fellows in the marshes like the warms, spiders, dragonflies, and the night crickets, to name just a few. If you have ever watched lizards or geckos, or more precisely, the chameleon eating, that is the same method the frogs use to hunt and eat their prey. Sticky tongue method. Watch and learn more about nature than politics. It soothes the body and enriches the mind.

Steve Kinuthia is a veteran professional safari guide and the proprietor of Bushman Adventures Limited. [email protected]

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