Event turns focus on frogs

Published 11:33 am Friday, April 5, 2013

Three Rivers is thinking globally and acting locally when it comes to saving frogs, which are like canaries in coal mines.

“What happens to frogs happens to us,” said Anna Smith, who is working with a committee promoting awareness of frogs’ plight with a “Find the Frogs” merchant promotion to an 80-foot mural by Scidmore Park dubbed “Frograffiti.”

On April 21 at 3 p.m. at the historic Riviera Theater, there will be a free showing of the film “ Frogs — the Thin Green Line,” which PBS and the National Geographic Channel have aired.

Frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates.

Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction.

Up to 200 species completely disappeared since 1980.

Amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of one species every 250 years.

Amphibian populations are faced with an onslaught of environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases which thicken skin until they suffocate, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and over-harvesting for pet and food trades.

Because of extensive rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands in and around the St. Joseph County community — a third of Fabius Township, which abuts eastern Cass County, is a watershed — wetlands and amphibian inhabitants are importantnatural features.

With so much habitat consumed by roads and developments, during mating season endangered frogs can’t hear each other, Smith said.

That’s why Three Rivers Mayor Tom Lowry declared April “Save the Frogs! Month” to call attention to the importance of protecting native frogs from extinction.

Vic Eichler, who heads the committee, which is in its third year, said state Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine, will again introduce a resolution making April 27 “Save the Frogs! Day” across Michigan.

The organized celebration is expected to be observed in 300 communities in 40 countries.

In Three Rivers, 20 merchants signed up for an April “Find the Frog” promotion. Customers in each store can register for a gift by finding a small, hidden cardboard frog.

Stores will have a poster on the door of the business indicating its participation in “Find the Frog.” The promotion runs April 1-26.

A drawing for prizes and gift certificates will be done from each merchant’s collection of registrations at “Save the Frogs! Day” on April 27.

In Three Rivers it will be celebrated at the Farmer’s Market pavilions in Scidmore Park, which is on the corner of West Michigan Avenue and Spring Street, across from City Hall, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on that Saturday.

There will be games, activities, information about frogs, drawings for the merchant’s prizes and free hot dogs from The Weenie King for the first 200 persons.

There are 6,317 amphibian species, of which 5,576 are anurans (frogs and toads), 566 are caudates (newts) and salamanders and 175 are gymnophiones (caecilians).

Caecilians lack limbs. These amphibians look like earthworms or snakes and can grow up to five feet in length but keep a low profile living underground.