Dr Jeanne Tarrant, Programme Manager, EWT Threatened Amphibian Programme
Each year, for the past three years, Jeanne Tarrant, manager of our Threatened Amphibian Programme, has participated in the Roselands Trust’s Butterfly Project at Roselands Outdoor Centre, in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. The Centre hosts school groups throughout the year for outings on environmental learning and team building. During the September holidays this year, 40 youth from some of the most impoverished local schools were invited to Roselands for an intensive 5-day experiential learning programme on environmental awareness. Roselands is also special as it is a Stewardship site, i.e. a declared protected area, while still being on a working farm, and it hosts several threatened species including the Endangered Mistbelt Chirping Frog and increasingly rare Blue Swallow.
Jeanne joined the Butterfly Project group on 25 September and took them “frogging” in the catchment area close to the Centre, as well as ran through our basic “Frogs in the Classroom” junior school learning programme. This exercise is crucial in reducing fears about frogs, as many of the children are terrified of frogs. Through some hands-on observation of live tadpoles and frogs, and discussion about some of the myths associated with them, such as that frogs shoot lightning from their mouths; frogs stick to your skin if you touch them; frogs are poisonous and frogs are curses. It is great to see how after engaging with the learners the fear of frogs is visibly reduced. Listening to frog calls is one of the best ways to identify them, and in the evening Jeanne and the children spent some time listening to calls. This teaches the children to really listen for different sounds in nature – sometimes very different to what we imagine, for example, many frogs sound like birds or insects. We even managed to fit in some star gazing – a wonderful opportunity to absorb the tranquil atmosphere of this setting.
This work is made possible by Rand Merchant Bank.