20 January 2012

Froglife’s Newt Year Honours 2012

Every January, wildlife charity Froglife recognises hard working and special people with a commitment to helping conserve reptiles and amphibians.  Newt Year Honour recipients range from volunteers to high profile people helping to improve the public image of snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, newts and other species.  Previous honours have gone to Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, Monty Python’s Terry Jones, and the creators of Bagpuss for the magical Gabriel the Toad. 

“The Newt Year Honours are a way for Froglife to recognise and say thank you to people who get behind the amphibian and reptile conservation cause in a variety of ways,” explains Kathy Wormald, Froglife’s CEO.  “The animals are having an incredibly tough time globally, with more species at risk of extinction than mammals or birds.  They are also often misunderstood as being scary, slimy, unnecessary or just unlovable.  We need all the help we can get in celebrating and conserving these incredible animals and the part they play in ecosystems and culture.”

This year, competition was particularly tight with only six categories of Newt Year Honours.  The winners were selected by Froglife’s senior management team from nominations by Froglife staff and trustees.

The Young Volunteer award goes to Peter Tuck, a young person who has been involved in our Froglife Active Conservation Team project. Peter has been giving up his Saturday afternoons to help young offenders achieve their reparation hours.  He enjoyed his woodwork so much with Froglife that he is now joining the Armed Forces as a carpenter. 

The High Profile Person Representing Amphibians and Reptiles award goes to conservation biologist Dr Kerry Kriger, who started the American charity Save the Frogs in 2008.  Dr Kriger has initiated a global Save the Frogs day, inspiring people all over the world to celebrate, learn more about and raise funds to protect frogs and their habitats into the future. 

The Volunteer Commitment: Time and Passion award goes to Ash Jarvis who started on Froglife’s Wildlife Ambassador project in April 2011. Following training through the project, Ash has surveyed for reptiles and butterflies on Hampton Nature Reserve as well as completing youth volunteering training and volunteering on both Froglife’s Wildlife Ambassadors and My Wild Life projects. Ash has volunteered over 200 hours so far!

The Volunteer in Action: Hands On Conservation award goes to Jules Howard.  Jules started his career in herpetology with Froglife and has since gone on to set up his own environmental education social enterprise - The Wildlife Man.  Jules is involved with local toad patrols in Northampton, as well as helping to improve local habitats for wildlife, supporting schools and inspiring young people.  

The Creative Support for Amphibians and Reptiles award goes to Zamba, a reggae and carnival band based in North Devon, who got in touch in 2011 to let us know we had inspired a song!  Zamba created the fantastic Froglife song after reading about their local Toads on Roads patrols.  The bouncy tune encourages people to remember the frogs and toads quietly getting on with their lives as we speed along, and is available to download on iTunes and Amazon with donations from the proceeds investing in our Tuppence a Toad scheme. 

Froglife have also been working with World of Water Aquatic Stores, and shoppers have been able to get a great value pond creation kit which includes a Just Add Water information booklet and free Froglife Friendship.  The Watford store received a Newt Year Honour for encouraging the most customers in their local area to create a wildlife pond.

18 January 2012

How Tiny Can They Be?

There has been a lot of excitement about the discovery of the word's tiniest frog in Papua New Guinea.   Froglife trustee Professor Roger Downie has been finding out more about this incredible animal.

"At the same time as amphibian populations are in decline around the world, new species are being discovered at a surprisingly high rate, especially in the less explored tropical rainforests: currently, over 100 new species are being described each year.

A report by Eric Rittmeyer and colleagues on two new species of frog raises the question: how small can adult frogs be?

In the UK, our Common frog Rana temporaria develops from small eggs into tadpoles that metamporphose into froglets about 8mm long.  They then grow into adults about 10 times longer.

Juvenile Common frogs leave the pond at about 8mm in length, with the potential to grow 10 times longer 
The frogs described by Rittmeyer (genus Paedophryne = child-like frog) are all extremely small as adults. They live in the damp leaf litter of lowland forests in eastern Papua New Guinea. Four species have been described so far, all since 2010, indicating the rich biodiversity still to be identified in that country.

So far, the smallest is Paedophryne amauensis with adults measuring in at 7.7 mm on average. These tiny frogs are direct developers (i.e. no tadpole stage) and have piercing insect-like calls. As in most miniaturised amphibians, they show specialised skeletal features such as reduced digits."

The smallest adult frog discovered in Papua New Guinea, measuring 7.7mm in length
Rittmeyer EN , Allison A , Gr√ľndler MC , Thompson DK , Austin CC , 2012 Ecological Guild Evolution and the Discovery of the World's Smallest Vertebrate. PLoS ONE 7(1): e29797. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029797

- You can read the full journal article at PLoS ONE here: Rittmeyer et al(2012) in Plos-1 volume 7 issue 1.
- You can find out more about the UK's species of frog at the Froglife website here

You can help support amphibian conservation and enable us to develop research through becoming a Froglife Friend.  Find out the difference you can make for just £1.50 a month here.

Photos: Sivi Sivanesan and Rittmeyer et al.

16 January 2012

Education Project Back thanks to BBC Children in Need!

Green Pathways is back! And with a new member of staff at the helm. Froglife is delighted to offer even more opportunities for young people in Peterborough to enjoy wildlife, thanks to BBC Children in Need. New team member and project officer Rebecca Neal shares her thoughts on the project.

“For those froglets not in the know, Green Pathways works with disadvantaged young people in Peterborough on conservation projects across the city. It grew out of Froglife’s work with young offenders, through which many young people with all sorts of challenging behaviour have benefited from practical, positive projects.

The project previously ran for 3 years finishing Spring 2011 and supported2655 young people to get outdoors, learn more about wildlife, and build their skills and confidence.
Young people on Froglife's Green Pathways project planting up a pond
This time around Green Pathways is open to teenagers aged 12-19 and, as before, reaches out to those who exhibit challenging behaviour, lack confidence or simply could benefit from extra help to achieve their full potential. The Green Pathways team will be lending a hand to green projects all over the city, creating and restoring habitats.

I have only just started, but very shortly I shall be seeking sites to work at, young people to recruit and volunteers to assist, so if you think you can help please get in touch. ”

A trained teacher, Rebecca has volunteered teaching science in Guyana, in South America and once did a job involving hair-drying bumblebees! If you would like to get involved in Green Pathways or hear more about the project, why not say hello?

- You can get in touch with Rebecca by emailing rebecca.neal@froglife.org or calling 01733 425826
- You can find out more about Green Pathways at the Froglife website here

You can help support Froglife's work engaging vulnerable young people in conservation projects by making a donation here.
Photo: Natalie Pretsell