Wednesday, October 31, 2007

D'ye Ken Kermit's Cousin?

If I'd thought of it earlier, I would have saved my recent vampire post for Halloween today. Oh well, Happy Halloween to my readers, and let's take a look at some other creatures of interest instead.

Being lucky enough to have a garden, I get quite a range of visitors, from the welcome - birds and butterflies; the odd gecko - to the decidedly uninvited - various slugs and snails, including the horrendous giant African snail, which some deluded nutcases apparently keep as pets. Austin Coates included an entertaining anecdote about these monsters in "Myself A Mandarin", one of the essential Hong Kong books, which sadly seems to be out of print at present.

One occasional welcome visitor is the little brown tree frog, quite common in Hong Kong and easily identifiable.

One time last year a different, and larger, frog came visiting. Now, I have most of the excellent series of books published by the late lamented Urban Council in the 1980s on the natural history of Hong Kong - different volumes cover trees, fish, flowers, fungi, minerals, etc. With luck, you may still be able to find a few copies at the government bookshop; although they may not be very up-to-date, to the best of my knowledge there is no more recent convenient source for much of the information they contain.

Anyway, I dug out the Amphibians and Reptiles volume to try to identify my little friend. Among the 19 species of frog in Hong Kong, based on appearance and size, the closest I could find was the dark-spotted pond frog, also known as the three-striped pond frog, but according to the book, this species is quite rare in Hong Kong, being known from only two specimens here. However, both of these were found in the Taipo area where I live, so it can't be ruled out.

There are a couple of other frogs and toads in the book that appear to be possible candidates, but either their size or their preferred habitat or some distinguishing feature doesn't seem quite right. So, do we have any wildlife experts here who can help me identify Kermit's cousin?

It's good to see that frogs still appear to be thriving in Hong Kong, because in many parts of the world their numbers are being massively reduced by a fungus infection. Now comes a report that New Zealand scientists have taken a major step towards finding a cure which could help to preserve them. Given that many frogs eat mosquitoes and other insect pests, that's good news for humans as well as amphibians.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

This looks like Common Asian Toad, Bufo melanostictus.