Monday, October 19, 2015

Mediterranean Painted Frog

February seemed to be wetter than usual. It rained most days and by the end of the month I was hearing a lot of people complaining that they were fed up of the rain even though they all knew that in this country we should welcome every drop of water.

Rain water percolates through the limestone to replenish the over-extracted water table. It also forms streams and rivulets that occasionally rush and at other occasions meander through the valleys.

Rain water collects behind dams built in valleys allowing farmers to water their crops during the drier months. It also fills in the innumerable depressions in rocky areas providing habitat for several aquatic plants and animals such as the Mediterranean painted frog.
The Mediterranean painted frog is the only indigenous amphibian in the Maltese islands. Although this species can be found in other parts of the Mediterranean the race found in Malta is found only here and in Sicily.

This species of frog is protected by European and local legislation. It is illegal to catch or in any way disturb this species without permission. The frog needs all the protection it can get but listing it as a protected species is not enough.

To protect it properly and effectively one needs to known as much as possible about its biology and ecology. One has to know the size of its population, whether it is increasing or decreasing and one has to monitor its habitat and important breeding sites. 

Up to a couple of decades ago one could see many children collecting frogs and tadpoles from Wied il-luq in Buskett, Chadwick Lakes and. Frog catching is not widely practiced anymore but we now need to move a step ahead.  

Being close to nature and viewing animals closely is good in many ways and if done properly it instils a love for nature and subsequently it would give rise to a strong conservation ethic and to future environmentalists.

One way for this to happen is for all schools to create nature areas in their grounds. These areas should provide habitats for indigenous species of flora and fauna. These areas should include a wild-life pond in which one introduces plants and animals including frogs.

If every school had to have a nature area, Malta would have many more children who would become more aware of the natural environment. These sites would also create a network of habitats for nature throughout the islands. 

This article was published in the Times of Malta on 5 March 2015.  

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