Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


About Mountain Chicken Frogs

Coombsville Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

November 28, 2016

This essay, Extinction: About Mountain Chicken Frogs, is the seventh in the the dectet Menagerie: I am indebted to Gerald "Gerry" Durrell and to the worldwide staff of Durrell aka the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust who inspired this conversation, and to Lee Durrell and to on the edge  Magazine who contributed material.

Photograph courtesy on the edge Magazine

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Leptodactylus Fallax  aka the Mountain Chicken Frog

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


a situation in which something no longer exists

If you and I ie if we human beings found out we were facing imminent extinction within the next two to three decades, you can bet we'd all sit bolt upright and pay attention. But we aren't. So we don't. Yet imminent extinction is what the fate of 16,306 non-human species on our planet today will be if we don't take action now.


I first became aware of the work of Gerald "Gerry" Durrell (brother of Lawrence Durrell, celebrated Booker Prize winning author of the famed quadrilogy The Alexandria Quartet)  when I was ten years old. Gerry's breakout book My Family and Other Animals  was required reading at SACS  ie South African College School, my combined kindergarten, junior, middle, and high school where I spent the twelve years 1956 through 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa. Even for a ten year old, the book was a good read. No, it was more than that. It was I was captivated by it. Enthralled. But it wasn't until 1983, twenty three years later, when I fully realized the enormity ie the global implications of Gerry's work. That's when I enrolled as a member and financial sponsor of his then Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, now renamed in his honor as simply Durrell aka the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust of which I've been a member and a financial sponsor now for thirty three years.

The mission Gerry conceived of and set out on, which Durrell is now fulfilling on, is nothing short of astonishing: travel to the farthest corners of the Earth, humanely and gently capture the last remaining specimens of species which are about to go extinct, bring them to Les Augrès Manor in Trinity which is one of twelve parishes on the island of Jersey in the British Channel Islands where he constructed optimum living conditions and habitats appropriate for each of his new wards, then facilitate them breeding back into viable numbers, after which return them to their native environment where they can re-establish an enduring, sustainable presence again. Without a shred of self-aggrandizement, Gerry has in effect single-handedly drawn lines through ie erased many of the entries on our planet's endangered species list.

If you get your attention off people for a moment even if only temporarily, it's hard to imagine our planet without elephants, without giraffes, without rhinoceroses, without lions. But that's merely a paltry four of our endangered species. The IUCN  (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) so-called Red List  designates a staggering 41,415 endangered species, with a heart-wrenching 16,306 of them in imminent, critical danger of going extinct. Gone. Fini. Never to walk our Earth again. Never to trumpet or roar again. Ever. This isn't a reality which will maybe happen in a hundred years or so. It's immediate. It's now. Our children's children may never see elephants or giraffes or rhinoceroses or lions. Unless we rethink our priorities toot sweet, we've got two to three decades at the most.

On The Edge

No species is too large or too small or too remote to not be on this list. No species is too large or too small or too remote to escape Durrell's watchful eye. Take for example Leptodactylus Fallax  aka the Mountain Chicken Frog, one of the largest frogs on our planet at up to twenty two centimeters (eight and a half inches) long. It's now found only on Montserrat and Dominica. Montserrat and Dominica are both island nations in the Caribbean Sea. Specifically, they're in the Leeward Island group which is part of the Lesser Antilles chain in the British West Indies. Both Montserrat and Dominica are considered to be BOTs  (British Overseas Territories).

Hunted almost to extinction for its flesh (which, it's said, tastes like ... well ... chicken  - hence its name), whatever specimens remained of the Mountain Chicken Frog were then nearly completely wiped out by the global amphibian scourge aka the Chytrid  fungus. It was determined that only two specimens remained in the wild, one female and one male, on Montserrat.

Gee! I really want you to get this: two Mountain Chicken Frogs left. Two - ie the last  two. Both of them on the edge of extinction. And about to imminently drop off.

Into this bleak scenario, enter Durrell - their mission being to find the female and the male, and introduce them. Find two frogs?  That is, find two well-camouflaged  frogs? On an island the size of Montserrat? In the dark?  Among rocks and vegetation? In crevices. On slopes. Ever heard the expression "It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack"? Forget that. Replace it with "It's like trying to find a Mountain Chicken Frog on the island of Montserrat" (in fact it's probably easier  finding a needle in a haystack than it is finding a Mountain Chicken Frog on the island of Montserrat). The point (and what drives and inspires Durrell) is this: either find those two frogs or  ... write the obituary for the entire species (when you consider it that way, the choice is a no-brainer).

They found that female frog. They also found the male - nearly a kilometer away. They moved the female close to the male, with the intention that the pair will breed, increasing the chances of Mountain Chicken Frogs surviving and flourishing on Montserrat and on our planet again.

Please Take Action Now

This is what Gerry's work is all about. This is Durrell. And you may not have known until now (ie until you read this essay) exactly how much you and I, as the human custodians of Planet Earth for ourselves and for our children and for our children's children, are indebted to Durrell.

I invite you to invest your time and your resources wisely by visiting and studying the following websites, then enrolling as a member and financial sponsor of Durrell, and participating with me in their astonishing work:

 •  Mountain Chicken Frogs

 • SAFE  (Saving Amphibians From Extinction)

 • on the edge  Magazine

 • Durrell

 • American Friends of Durrell

 • Gerald "Gerry" Durrell

Thank You (your children's children also thank you).

With my Love and Respect,
Photography by Victoria Hamilton-Rivers

Oak Leaf Ranch, East Napa, California, USA

7:29pm Friday June 19, 2009
with Patient Horse

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