Drumming with SAVE THE FROGS!

Drumming for the Frogs protest event.

The historical Bay Area is notorious for many things, wine, activism, and music–to name a few. Most Berkleyans will agree that this area is practically overrun with protesters, painters, and artists. While The Black Keys might have rocked Outside Lands last year, the best performance around is Drumming for the Frogs, a group composed of scientist, educators, and musicians, who drum to save endangered amphibians.

Drumming for the Frogs is a movement that is associated with an organization called SAVE THE FROGS!, the first and only public charity that is dedicated to raising the awareness and education of environmental conservation. SAVE THE FROGS! aims to acquaint society with an appreciation for amphibians and develop a public interest in wildlife. The organization was founded in May of 2008 by Dr. Kerry Kriger, who became inspired to protect wildlife populations after researching chytrid fungus, a lethal skin fungus that is capable of infecting most of the world’s amphibian species, leading to the extinction of amphibian populations and the devastation of biodiversity. After conducting environmental research in Australia, and receiving his PhD from Griffith University, Kriger became cognizant of the lack of public education in amphibian conservation. Kriger believes that the future of nature and wildlife is dependent on social awareness and, therefore, that public education is the key to successfully saving the amphibians.

Many of you are probably wondering “of all the cool animals out there, why save the frogs?” Amphibians have profound roles in the environment and in scientific research. Frogs are valuable to the ecosystem by cleaning water as tadpoles and preventing pest-transmitted diseases (by feeding off of insects) as adults. The physiology of amphibians (such as the permeability of their skin) causes them to be highly susceptible to toxins, and other environmental stressors. Their vulnerability to these various stressors means that their health status is an indicator of the overall health of the environment. Amphibians are also prevalent in lab research, as they were one of the initial models for cloning research, and are continually used in current medical research. Frog populations are currently experiencing a rapid declination throughout the world, and this decrease has many negative impacts on their surrounding environments. The endangerment of frogs is due to a plethora of reasons including habitat destruction, diseases, and environmental toxins.

In only four years, SAVE THE FROGS! has achieved a great amount for our amphibian friends. Since a host of the threats to amphibians are inadvertently due to the actions of humans, the greatest achievement of SAVE THE FROGS! has been accessible education and lectures on amphibian conservation. Kriger conceived SAVE THE FROGS! Day on April 30th , in which 39 countries arranged educational events and spread the importance of frogs across the world.  SAVE THE FROGS! has also composed advocacy programs as an endeavor to prevent frogs from being used in restaurants, supermarkets, and to remove the dissection of frogs from schools. These programs have lead two restaurants and 76 supermarkets in California to no longer serve or sell frog legs.

Kriger’s most current project is that little number I mentioned in the beginning, Drumming for the Frogs.  Drumming for the Frogs took place at Sharp Park, a coastal wetland that is owned by The City of San Francisco. As of today, 95% of California’s coastal wetlands have been destroyed due to human agricultural and recreational needs. Sharp Park was one of the few untouched wetlands in California, until it was converted to a private golf course. Now the City drains Sharp Park year round and pumps the wetlands out into the ocean, to ensure that Sharp Park members have an optimal terrain to practice their golf swing at. The destruction of California wetlands endangers California Red-Legged frogs by destroying the watery environment where they lay their egg masses, and by pumping tadpoles out of their natural habitat and into the ocean.  Kriger requested a permit for the inaugural Drumming for the Frogs at Sharp Park, where he wanted to hold a free public event for environmental education. The event was original set to take place on April 28th, but was postponed for almost a month due to the City of San Francisco choice of denying SAVE THE FROGS! a permit, effectively prohibiting the event. The City’s decision was never validated, and Kerry has yet to receive an explanation for their actions. Despite Kriger’s refusal to hold his event, Sharp Park allowed for a nonpublic golfing event to occur on May 19th. Kriger’s eagerness to fight for Sharp Park to become a publicly available land that is managed for wildlife protection (rather than golf) lead to the formation of a Drumming for the Frogs event protesting The City’s decision.  On May 19th, a group of 35 children, adults, politicians, scientists, environmentalists, and frog lovers gathered around Sharp Park and played their drums. Kriger said that “at a minimum, the golfers had to ponder their game and their choices”, and explained that he chose to use drums because the loud noise acted as a way to signify and amplify the protesters presences, to celebrate the nature and wildlife, and to unfold an environmental revolution.

Drumming at the May 19 event.

SAVE THE FROGS! will continue to promote drumming to raise awareness and to be heard throughout the world. The organization is also currently working on regulating the importation of bullfrogs through the Lacey Act, which would force suppliers to show evidence that their frogs are free of chytrid fungus, and ultimately prevent the spread of this disease throughout the world.

In a small amount of time, SAVE THE FROGS! has shaped the way the public eye views amphibians role in our ecosystems, and is slowly changing the well-being of wildlife in general. While many amphibians will remain endangered, SAVE THE FROGS! has big visions for the future and, with continued support, can truly change the world. So go grab a drum and make some music, frog lovers.

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