There’s something funny happening to the frogs in our pond. I mean, I wouldn’t mind – but that’s our drinking water, that is. Fifty of the buggers – dead.
A couple of years ago I sent one off to Glasgow University so that they could work out what was wiping them out. That was the first year I noticed a problem – and at that time there were 400 little corpses, all littered about at the waters edge.
When I say ‘pond’, I mean Loch, of course …it takes twenty minutes to walk around the shore of the peaty water of our loch which has tumbled down from Heather clad hills above, on which there is no industry of any kind. You couldn’t find fresher, healthier, more organic water anywhere. Well, up until the frogs started dying in it.
I’ll tell you what’s happening to them – but don’t read this bit whilst trying to eat breakfast: It starts with their back legs …the skin changes from greeny-brown to a spotted light-blue, and at the same time the limb begins to dissolve until nothing of them is left but the skin – empty, like a miniature pair of spotted pyjama-bottoms swaying about in the current. But get this: at that stage they are still ALIVE. The front half of them remains healthy right up until the moment when the disease reaches the anus and their digestive tract, then everything just sort of comes undone. Only then do they peg it still with the torso propped up on a healthy pair of front legs, right at the waters-edge, head and eyes popping out above, as though they were relaxing before going for another underwater swim when the sun gets too hot. Which probably won’t be any time soon.
The people from Glasgow University sent their specimen away to London. The people in London wrote back to say it was ‘Otter-predation’. And they know a thing or two down there, in Regents Park …about Otters. Apparently the Otters were gently unzipping the leg skin without harming the torsos, eating the little leggies out of them, and then releasing the newly paraplegic frogs to get on with the rest of their lives as best as they could. Which was an eye-opener for me because whenever I’ve seen an Otter eating something I’ve been shocked by the blood-lust and brutality with which they kill things. It makes King Herod look like Mother Theresa – honestly it does.
Otter Predation. Imagine – people get paid for that kind of thing. Are you allowed a second opinion if you’re not happy with the diagnosis of your dead frog?
If you happen to have a degree in amphibious diseases; or you’re a keen amateur; or you’re not scientific in any way but you used to enjoy watching the Muppetts, and you’ve got an idea of what it could be – I’d love to hear from you. Only my tea is beginning to taste a bit funny.
Justin is an unwilling adventurer