Frogs may be found in forest streams such as this.
Listen for nature’s music in the forest.
A SYMPHONY of lows and highs intertwined creating beautifully enchanting music. Dramatic unexpected notes and low drum-like rolls tugged at the heartstrings.
Last January out of 12 finalists, ‘Dusk by a Frog Pond’ recorded at Kubah National Park by sound recordist and photographer Marc Anderson – who’s based in Sydney, Australia – was voted the most beautiful sound in the world in a contest organised by Beautiful Now (www.beautifulnow.is).
Julian Treasure, the chairman of the organiser Sound Agency, in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation (www.cbc.ca), discussed the challenges of selecting the 12 finalists from the hundreds of entries and why he believed ‘Dusk by the Frog Pond’ touched the hearts of the listeners.
Treasure, who is from the United Kingdom, said he had never heard frogs call like the ones in the frog pond at Kubah National Park.
Perceptions of beauty, including sounds, are personal; what I like will be different from you. The startling and dramatic piece connected us city dwellers with nature. It showed life – frogs, insects and frogs – at its most abundant and varied.
I have heard the jungle, I have heard frog calls – but this recording halted me in my steps, forcing me to savour nature’s music. I wonder how many have heard and stopped to listen to the music.
Frogs and toads, members of the Anura order, as well as other amphibians including temperate salamanders – which superficially resemble lizards, and legless tropical ceaecillians – which could be mistaken for earthworms or snakes, are facing a mass extinction on the same scale as the one that wiped out dinosaurs.
Several factors have been identified as contributing to their demise including pollution, pesticides, habitat loss, climate change, hunting, predators, pet trade but the most deadly is a disease – chytrid fungal pathogen (Batrachochytrium dendrobactidis). It is fatal because the fungus coats the delicate amphibian skin blocking the pores, which are used for water and moisture transfer, thus killing the frog from dehydration and heart failure.
Frogs and toads are a diverse group filling a vast array of ecological niches ranging from streams, to pools in the forests and even in liquid-filled pitcher plant cups. Amphibians have a water phase and a land phase. The sago pudding like egg masses are generally laid in water including ponds and streams. The herbivorous tadpoles, which hatch from the eggs, go through metamorphosis. Gills develop into lungs; limbs develop, as does the nervous system. It is a dramatic transformation.
The enchanting and life-giving frog calls are exactly that – life-giving as generally they are mating calls for male frogs, attracting the females. The calls show location and mark territory. Each species has a recognisable energy draining call that is used in courtship and mating rituals. There can be slight variations in the call depending on the area in which the species is found. The calls are more often heard than the frogs are seen and are used to identify species.
Air is forced from the lungs, through the vocal cords, in the vocal sac. Male frogs have a vocal sac just under their chins that can blow up like a balloon creating a resonating chamber like, for example the body of a guitar, in which the sound is created.
Kubah National Park, 22km west of Kuching, was established in 1989 and opened to the public in 1995. Trails criss-cross this 2,230ha park enabling trekkers to walk to the summit of Gunung Serapi, bathe in waterfall-fed pools and embrace the beauty of the Mixed Dipterocarp Forest. The frog pond is located off the paved road that leads to Gunung Serapi.
April 26 is International Save the Frog Day because as mentioned, worldwide populations of frogs are plummeting. On this day, from 12 noon to 12 midnight, the Bornean Frog Race 2014 will be jointly held by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation at Kubah National Park. No, the frogs are not racing, but participants are racing to photograph the frogs.
This event aims to create awareness about the diversity of frog populations in Sarawak, their importance and to increase our appreciation of frogs and nature in general. Participants will have the opportunity to join workshops and talks while being serenaded by the most beautiful sound in the world – the call of frogs.
To learn more about Bornean Frog Race or to register go to theinternationalborneanfrograce.weebly.com.
For more information about Kubah National Park and some of the frogs that inhabit the park read ‘National Parks of Sarawak’ by Han Hazebroek and Abang Kashim Abang Morshidi.
The Malaysian Nature Society Established in 1940, the Malaysian Nature Society is the oldest scientific and non-governmental organisation in Malaysia. Our mission is to promote the study, appreciation conservation and protection of Malaysia’s nature heritage. Our 5,000-strong membership, spread across 12 branches nationwide, come from all walks of life, bound by a comment interest in nature. For further information on membership or our activities in Kuching contact us at mnskuchinggmail.com. For information on our activities in Miri contact Musa Musbah (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also visit www.mns.org.my, http://email@example.com or www.facebook.com/mnskb.