Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Frog whisperer: Australian scientist speaks to frogs, fears their silence

Wading through a moonlit pond on Australia’s east coast talking to frogs makes Michael Mahony feel like a kid again.


The 70-year-old biology professor and conservationist at Australia’s University of Newcastle has mastered imitating and understanding the shrills, croaks and whistles of frogs.

“Sometimes you forget to work because, you know, you just want to talk to the frogs for a while and it’s sort of good fun,” Mahony told Reuters from a pond in Cooranbong, New South Wales. He is thrilled every time they call back, but fears frogs are increasingly at risk of going silent.

Australia has about 240 frog species, but around 30% of them are threatened by climate change, water pollution, habitat loss, the chytrid fungus, and in a variety of other ways. Globally frogs are the most threatened of all vertebrates, Mahony said.

Over his career, Mahony has described 15 new species of frogs. He has also seen some wiped out.

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