I’ve always loved fairy tales, but was disappointed to learn about a frog that will never be able to turn into a prince. Living among the forest floodplains of the south, the Dusky Gopher Frog does have some storybook features though. Periodically covering its eyes with its long black flippers, it looks like a baby playing peek-a-boo. Although no one knows why it does this, my anthropomorphic guess is it doesn’t like what it’s seeing.
Instead of transforming into a prince, this frog is witnessing its transformation into, well, nothing. Only one wild population remains and it lives in a single Mississippi County. It’s the same old story – habitat loss, pollution, climate change. Extinction looms not only for this little guy, but for thousands of other animals including the charismatic critters we go to the local zoo or half way across the world on Safari to see.
Scientists tell us we are in the midst of what’s called the Sixth Great Extinction, the rapid disappearance of thousands of animals, and the only extinction event largely caused by people. We even have a day marking the phenomenon behind it. We call it Endangered Species Day which was commemorated a couple of weeks ago without much fanfare.
I don’t blame the Dusky Frog for hiding its eyes. I do the same thing in horror movies when a monster is sneaking up the stairs. The monster that is sneaking up the stairs right now could be the one that leaves our grandchildren’s world bereft of the real versions of the cuddly animals we tuck into their beds at night. Who would want a cotton stuffed tiger if the real one of fur and flesh and bone lived no more?
When I think of a world devoid of many of the animals of today, I get pretty upset. Instead of covering my eyes though, I want to call the cops. No fair, I want to say. There are two million other species, and only one of us. Can’t you do something?