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The Malabar Hills Frog

The Malabar Hills Frog

Author: Rahul Alvares
The colouration on the frog’s back resembles the red bark fungus growing on trees on which it is often found. Photo: Rahul Alvares.

Brownish to bright red, the colourful fungoid frog or the Malabar Hills frog is found not only on the forest floor, but also close to human habitation, says Rahul Alvares.

It is a known fact that most wild animals avoid human beings. The reason why, is pretty obvious: most humans are very noisy creatures, fairly large (compared to most animals) and usually extremely dangerous.

Luckily (for a wildlife enthusiast!) not all wild animals share this opinion about us humans. Some feral creatures not only survive but actually seem to thrive around people. Many animals actively seek out human habitations to hunt, breed and build their own homes!

Take, for example, this fungoid frog. This beautiful amphibian was photographed right inside my own room. The little frog had settled in behind my sleeping bag, which was stashed away under a shelf in one corner of my room. The only reason I knew it was there was because every once in a while it simply couldn’t stop itself from serenading me with a series of delightful squeals, squeaks and croaks!

This staccato of calls often erupted at random hours and without warning. But the same cacophony of high-pitched croaks and squeaks could also be brought on if I engaged in a raucous conversation or shared a hearty laugh with any person in the vicinity of my room! In this case the response to our laugh or shout was instantaneous. My suspicion is that it did not like the idea of not being the loudest one in the room and was therefore trying to out-sing us! But I could be wrong and maybe the little creature simply longed to join in on our conversation!

A few days after I had started hearing the little frog’s call, I began to notice it hopping from its resting spot behind my sleeping bag to behind the fridge on the other side of my room. I can only presume that this was its hunting spot.

One day as it started its short journey across my room I tried cornering it with my camera. But the little frog evaded me easily and immediately found its way to hide behind my fridge.

Moving aside the fridge, I found dirt I hadn’t swept in years and the little amphibian dabbed in a few bits of cobweb! I moved my camera as slowly as I could toward the small frog so as not to frighten it. That seemed to work and the frog remained unmoving until I got quite close to it. Three photographs later it had had enough and without warning, it dashed away with lightning speed across my room to hide behind my sleeping bag!

J. C Daniel’s book Reptiles and Amphibians of India offers two possible explanations for its name. The first one being that the colouration on the frog’s back resembles the red bark fungus growing on trees on which this frog is often found living on. The second explanation is that the frog gives off a powerful fungoid odour when excited.

The book also states that being a land species this frog is reluctant to enter water and avoids doing so except for breeding!

First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub March, 2014.   


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