Gulf News reader Inayath Mohammad took this picture in Wadi Hibi near Sohar, Oman. Sohar is the most developed city in the Sultanate of Oman, about 200 kilometres from the capital, Muscat. Image Credit: Inayath MohammaD

Frogs, the tiny creatures who breathe with their skin and swallow with the help of their eyes, are continuously under threat because of humans.

Having existed for about 300 million years, frogs have learnt to survive in difficult environmental conditions. But today nearly one third of the amphibian species are on the brink of extinction. According to the American non-profit organisation ‘Save the frogs’, up to 200 species have disappeared since 1980, and this is not normal because amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of only about one species every 250 years.

‘Save the frogs’, founded by ecologist Dr. Kerry Kriger in May 2008, is an international team of scientists, educators, policymakers and naturalists dedicated to protecting the world’s amphibian species. The non-profit organisation’s education and conservation programmes reach 87 countries, including the UAE.

The six factors that affect amphibians are all due to human activity: habitat destruction, infectious diseases, pollution and pesticides, climate change, invasive species, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades.

When people say that frogs are endangered most of us wonder why we should even bother saving them. Let’s look at how these tiny amphibians contribute to our planet.

Frogs — the indicators

They are the bio-indicators that alert us about our environmental problems. Their permeable skin absorbs toxic chemicals, making them susceptible to environmental disturbances. Thus, the health of frogs is thought to be indicative of the health of the biosphere as a whole.

Frogs – the cleaners

They are not just the first ones to die because of environment changes, but also the ones that clean up the mess of our environment. Tadpoles keep the water clean by feeding on algae. Adult frogs eat insects, including disease vectors that can transmit fatal illnesses to humans, such as mosquitoes that cause malaria.

Frogs – food for many

Frogs also serve as an important food source to a diverse array of predators, including fish, snakes, birds and monkeys. Thus, the disappearance of frog populations disturbs the food web and results in a negative impact on the ecosystem.

Frogs - life savers

Did you know that more than 10 per cent of Nobel Prizes in Physiology and Medicine have resulted from investigations that used frogs? In 2010, UK-based newspaper the Telegraph reported that a team of scientists, including Dr Michael Conlon, a biochemist, at a university in Abu Dhabi identified 100 new antibiotics using frog skin. The scientists tested secretions from more than 6,000 species of frogs for antibiotic activity.

According to the global body Amphibian Survival Alliance, working to protect the amphibians around the world, frogs provide other biomedicines, including compounds that are being refined for analgesics, antibiotics, stimulants for heart attack victims, and treatments for diverse diseases including depression, stroke, seizures, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Frogs – interesting facts

They can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They never close their eyes, even when they are sleeping. When they blink, it’s usually to swallow food.

How can you help?

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