I can say with quite a bit of certainty that 2016 has turned out to be the most bizarre year of my lifetime, thus far. Whether politically in the wake of Brexit and the Trump Presidency, or personally in the face of a string of mindboggling incidents in the lab that defy logic and the laws of probability. I have found myself numerous times, and throughout the entire year, pausing and checking that it is not April Fool’s Day, from January to November.
One such day was when I read an IFLS title: 10,000 Endangered Scrotum Frogs Have Died Near Lake Titicaca. Which, of course, in my mind read as “Loads of Ballsack Frogs Died Near Lake BoobyShit”.
I check my calendar. It’s late October. OK IFLS, you got me, I’m clicking on the link. Why, pray tell, have the ballsack frogs perished so?
There’s something strange going on near Lake Titicaca with its scrotum frogs (and it didn’t happen on April 1).
Oh good, so it’s not just me who thought that was a title worthy of an April Fool’s prank. Please, do go on.
At least 10,000 of these fat, wrinkly, and very rare frogs have mysteriously died in Peru. Thousands of the frogs were discovered floating in the river Coata by members of the Committee Against the Pollution of the Coata River. The river flows into Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia.
Speaking to IFLScience, Arturo Muñoz of the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative explained what was behind previous mass-deaths in Bolivia between May and April 2015.
“We found sulfide levels were very high in the lake,” Muñoz told IFLScience. He added that heavy rains and strong winds could have released sulfides from the bottom of the lakes and rivers, which subsequently might have killed the frogs.
The frogs maybe far uglier than the ballsacks they’re named after, but that is still very sad. More than anything else, they seem to be an indicator for some major pollution concerns in the area.
According to the locals, they have been concerned about the unchecked pollution for a while, and have been largely ignored, until they brought the dead frogs to their protests as evidence of what is happening in their communities.
Quite apart from chuckling at their funny names, the fact that this is a fun story to write about could actually bring a little international attention to a very real and hereto largely ignored problem in Peru. Who knows, if enough people follow the story in the hopes of learning more about the scrotum frog, authorities in the area might feel pressured to investigate and respond a bit more than they have so far. Already, in the light of these mass frog deaths, they seem to be giving at least a token response to the outcry.
This is one of those posts that embodies the Italian phrase da ridere per non piangere, which literally means, to laugh so as not to cry. You have a choice, cry over the ever worsening state of our environment and pollution levels, or laugh because you just learned that there is such a thing as a scrotum frog, which lives in lake Titicaca.