Conserving Species by Empowering the Heroes and Sheroes of the Planet

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by Wally Van Sickle

The planet is evolving and many species are moving about. Some are changing elevations and some are changing latitudes and some are changing longitudes. Many species are no longer found for obvious reasons and others are gone for no apparent reason. This is especially true with the amphibians, and frogs in particular. There are beautifully intact cloud forests all over Latin America where numerous frogs are no longer found.

In our backyard pond in Colorado, each spring is welcomed in by the calls of the boreal chorus frog. Not long after the snow thaws, these little frogs float motionless among the vegetation sending out mating calls that can be heard throughout the neighborhood. Like little Buddhas, each frog’s belly fills with air which is then repeatedly shunted back and forth between the vocal sac and the belly. Males call and harmonize in such fantastic melodies it is hard to imagine a more beautiful song to send one off to sleep.

The pond takes a great deal of effort to maintain and to create the proper frog habitat. Before the chorus frogs were willing to breed, we had much to learn about what proper habitat was. Of course we were well rewarded when we finally got the recipe correct. This tiny ecosystem is somewhat symbolic of a much bigger picture.

There is a planet-wide decline in amphibian numbers and species, and I believe there is something we can all do about it. My favorite action item is to insure that all those who are studying amphibians world wide are properly equipped. The more they know, the more we know, and the more we know, the more we can make sure frogs have what frogs need.


Mirza D. Kusrini lives on the island of Java in Indonesia and every day as she showered she was joined by a lone frog who seemed to enjoy the shower as much as she did. Like most Indonesians, she assumed there was only one species of frog and one species of toad in all of Indonesia. Her curiosity got the best of her one day and she decided to figure out what species of frog it was. She was astounded to learn there are over forty species in Java alone and over 270 amphibians in all of Indonesia!

Enthralled with frogs, Mirza enthusiastically read everything she could find out about them. What really caught her attention was the world wide decline in numbers and species. She had to know more. Soon after finishing her master’s degree that looked at the relationship between black cormorants and mangroves, she began pursuing her newly found interest in amphibians.

Today she has become one of the predominate herpetologists in all of Indonesia.


Mirza wrote, “In order to determine whether frogs are declining in any location, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge of the frog fauna. There is an urgent need to collect baseline data on amphibian diversity in Indonesian wild habitats. In Mount Gede Pangrango National Park, which is one of the last remaining pristine areas in the highly populated province of Java, little is known of the local frog fauna, despite the huge diversity reported within the park. The latest frog inventory was performed in the 1960’s.”

Mirza wanted to begin an ongoing amphibian monitoring program within the park and provide environmental education to children living near the park. She sent a proposal to IDEA WILD requesting small portable solar panels and rechargeable batteries. The park is remote and without electricity. Headlamps for night time frog surveys constantly need battery power and non-rechargeable batteries were costing them a small fortune.

Solar panels and rechargeable batteries provided by IDEA WILD made sure Mirza and her crew had all the power they needed to conduct their important work. With power, Mirza could also use her laptop and GPS to enter the data they collected. The research has now been underway for several years and Mirza has even put together a “Festival of Frogs” for all the children living near the park. The next generation of Indonesian herpetologists is also gaining experience and expertise with the equipment provided by IDEA WILD. This is the generation that will likely decide the fate of many of the frog species still inhabiting the tropical forests of Indonesia.

Project Cost: $1318