Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Threatened Amphibian Programme Manager, and Esté Matthew, Drylands Conservation Programme Field Officer
Friday 24th February saw the EWT attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest game of leapfrog. This event formed part of the 4th national Leap Day for Frogs – an awareness day to bring attention to the plight of frogs, but also to celebrate the diversity of frogs we have in South Africa. The day encourages everyone in South Africa – schools, companies and individuals – to take part and do something to highlight frogs, be it frog art, dressing in green or building a pond. This year we literally leapt for frogs to bring attention to these amazing animals. The current record for the most number of people playing leapfrog is held by New Zealand with 1,348 participants, so we were hoping for 1,500. In the end, we had 770 participants taking part simultaneously. Unfortunately, our transport brought the remainder of learners too far past the designated start time, so we were forced to do the jumping with those present. A further 300 learners arrived late but did do some jumping of their own, bringing the total number of attendees at the event to over 1,000.
Despite not leaping into the record books this year, we are really pleased with the outcomes. No doubt it’s a first for South Africa! Counting the learners that arrived late, we had over 1,000 people jumping for frogs on the Durban beachfront and, more importantly, raising awareness for frogs, which are among the most threatened animals in the world. Most participants were school groups, and they received educational packs sponsored by Struik Nature, so we certainly achieved our aim of educating more people about frogs. The atmosphere was great, and lots of fun was had by all! The news of the attempt travelled far and wide, reaching even Afghanistan and Australia!
Not to be outdone, the EWT’s Drylands Conservation Programme staff temporarily traded in their hiking boots for gumboots, in support of Leap Day for Frogs. On 24 February, staff introduced Grade 3 and 4 learners from the JJ Booysen Primary School in Loxton to the fascinating world of amphibians at the EWT’s Karoo Indigenous Plant Nursery. Altogether 78 learners, many of whom had never seen frogs before, enthusiastically took part in a variety of fun educational activities aimed at teaching them about amphibians in the arid Karoo environment. Activities included a frog long-jump, “frog egg” run, building puzzles and colouring-in.
Three intrepid volunteers from Loxton helped staff to collect frogs in preparation for this event. These frogs, used to show children the different species, were safely released back into their ponds afterwards.
Other Leap Day for Frogs events were held at various schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape, and at a Back-to-Nature Event with Kloof Conservancy on 18 February at Tanglewood Nature Reserve.
Leap Day for Frogs is celebrated annually in the last week of February, so be sure to get involved next year! You can find out more at www.leapdayforfrogs.org.za
This work is supported by Rand Merchant Bank, the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Fund, eThekwini Parks and Recreation, uShaka Marine World, Struik Nature, Kloof Conservancy, and Capri-Sun. Many thanks to the volunteers from uShaka Marine World and DUCT who helped us during the leapfrog event.