Monday, March 31, 2014

Save the World! Stop Raising Tadpoles!

Raising Tadpoles: Maybe I was wrong.

It's such a tricky issue!! YES, it's possible, and if everything goes to plan, and you look after them really well, then you may be doing them a favour, and certainly, if you couch the whole experiment in conservation, then you can educate children and adults so that they care about the frogs in the ponds, and the ecology (on a broader scale) of our whole community and planet.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing!
My mother used to raise tadpoles at the preschool, now I do it with the kids I teach, and I have, in the past, advised teachers of other programs on how to do it well. Eventually I became aware that people were trying it at home, and egg-clusters were dying en masse, as people didn't know how. I recognise that these people were trying to do something very good: give some tadpoles a head start and raise ecologically conscious kids. So, to help this problem, I published instructions on how to do it properly with Red Legged Frogs, including notes on conservation, because Red Legged frogs, while abundant in our neighbourhood, are blue-listed. In fact most frogs are threatened, to some degree, because of the ecological devastation and habitat loss that our rampant human population growth and over-consumption is causing.

Now it seems that my instructions are spreading all over the place. People are trying to raise tadpoles across this whole island, and on the mainland, too. People are tromping through wetlands and ponds and lakes in search of frog and salamander eggs, and disturbing the very areas we'd like to protect.

I was wrong. 

Although I think that raising tadpoles is still very beneficial for education, and even conservation, when done properly, I do not in any way think that every family should have an aquarium full of tadpoles at home.

Everything in moderation seems to apply to... well... everything! It's probably just fine - even healthy - to drink a beer once in a while, but 10 beers maybe not so much. Plastic was a miracle invention for various reasons, until we started using it for everything, and now our beaches, oceans, soil, and air are full of microscopic plastic particles, wreaking havoc for every species on earth, including humans. For thousands of years humans lived in symbiosis with the rest of the flora and fauna; now there are too many of us, and we're causing devastation. Everything in moderation. A tank of hatching frog eggs - maintained carefully - in most schools was a beautiful thing, and the kids who examined the wetland they came from learned to care for their own ecosystem. That was a good thing. But a tank of eggs (or a few tanks) in every home... some leaching plastic chemicals into the tadpoles' water (which causes reproductive issues) and some just simply dying due to a simple mistake or lack of understanding... that's too much. And it's not good.

We need to know the wilderness not as other, but as part of us. We need to understand it so deeply that the rain doesn't keep us from living in it, that the forest is a better playground than a gym, that we recognise the changes that happen all year long and see when something's off, and that when something's off we do something about it, because we know that our lives depend on it.

Something is off with this raising tadpoles thing.
Save the world. Stop raising tadpoles and get out in the wilderness.


  1. You are so right... Let's keep wild creatures wild, and teach our children and grandchildren to love their wild nature, to get out and observe, explore, even read about them or watch on film. So much harm has been done in the name of educating. That is the argument for zoos and even SeaWorld atrocities. Why is it necessary to learn about wild animals by watching them in a cage or tank. I'm also disturbed by people who insist on feeding deer and other wild animals, or keeping them in cages as pets. btw, love your blog. I'm commenting here because I don't like the forum so much :-)

  2. An interesting alternative to removing egg clusters is to bring a bucket of pond water home and put that in the aquarium instead. There is no shortage of interesting aquatic life to observe there, and it leaves most tadpoles safe in their pond.

    Just make sure there are some rocks and sticks pointing out of the water so creatures that need to get out the water to shed their skin are able to do so. You might also want a net over the top so anything that turns into a flying insect will be contained. :-)


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