Getting to know the Neighbours – Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes


Leptopelis at Mt Edgecombe

As it’s half-time in the world of the limbless ones, for a change I’ll talk about something else – is that a collective sigh of relief I can hear? Based on some of the calls I get, one would think that the column by-line was Working toward a stress-free co-existence with anything that creeps, croaks, flies or slithers. About a month ago, someone phoned me to tell me that her estate agent had not told her that the property she’d bought on the south coast had “blerry froks!” She wanted to know how she could get rid of them because they were making a terrible noise and if they didn’t shut up, she’d cancel the sale. I suggested she concrete the lawn, empty the bird baths, cut down all the flowers and get a case of ‘Doom’ – failing which, get some industrial ear muffs. My advice was not considered to be helpful and she terminated the call. How does one slam down the receiver on a cellphone?

Frogs. All over the world, they’re part of the territory and without them we’d be kept awake by the sound of cursing and the slapping of hands on legs, arms, faces etc. as people swat away at the mozzies. We’d be swamped by all manner of insect – now relieved of the pressure from their greatest predator, the humble frog. As they ‘breathe’ through their skins, frogs are an environmental indicator of the health of our planet, telling us when our air or water is becoming polluted, in addition to which they provide an essential food source for many other creatures that inhabit the planet. I exclude any Frenchmen from that generalisation.

It’s the males who make all the noise – “typical” I hear some say – loudly beckoning the females from the surrounding area, to their carefully selected call site where they will meet, greet, do the necessary and move on – no lingering partnership issues here and certainly no family tiffs. Each species has its own call, making the ID process a lot easier for those ‘froggers’ who don’t relish the thought of groveling around in the mud and rain, torch in mouth, looking for the elusive little buggers; but be advised, the calls are often mistakenly thought to be coming from insects, birds, bats or monkeys.

An interesting aspect of this calling process is that some species of frog share call time, giving each other a bit of a breather, nevertheless, when that buxom wench appears on the horizon, all bets are off! If you’re a squeaky-voiced little fellow, never fear, you’ll still get your chance because the females, blinded by the pheromonal forces assaulting them, won’t actually know who was calling. Amongst the frog people (batrachologists) this is known as ‘ambush calling’ – only the kids will suffer. What, you might ask, has any of this got to do with snakes? Nothing.

© pat mckrill. 2013
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