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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Precious Wonder

Air Date: Week of April 23, 2004

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Tom Lopez offers an ode to the magic and music of the singing frogs of South America’s Pantanal region.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Often we learn about rare animals from serious biologists who travel many miles and endure many hardships to research the creatures that fascinate them. But we can also get a keen sense of appreciation and wonder for nature's critters from someone who freely admits he knows next to nothing about science. Someone like producer Tom Lopez. Here’s his lesson about the frogs of the Pantanal.

[MEWLING FROG SOUNDS]

LOPEZ: I recorded these frogs in the Pantanal. The Pantanal is a floodplain or what I'd call a big swamp. It's mainly in Brazil but extends into Bolivia and Paraguay. They claim it's about 230,000 square kilometers. That's almost five times the size of Costa Rica. There's a lot of wildlife, especially at night, as you can hear. They sound like something from the planet Venus. I call them the singing frogs of the Pantanal. I think they're frogs.They could be toads.

Let me play you something else.

[OSCILLATING TOAD SOUNDS]

LOPEZ: They're what's known as your common garden toad. You'd never expect something with so many warts could sing like this. And listen to the way they all get together into these toad choruses, all twirling away. Reminds me of Moroccan women, the way they twirl.

We also have tree toads. They're tiny little green things about the size of your thumb. Amazing voices these little fellows have. You can tell it's a tree toad because you'll hear them up in the air above your head, twirling in some tree.

Meanwhile, back in the Pantanal – like I said, I don't know if these are frogs or if they're toads – but I'll tell you a story. There was a holy man. This is a true story, by the way, and it's a contemporary story. This contemporary holy man enjoyed going for walks in the woods, preferably alone. But living nearby was a university professor who loved to join the holy man on his walks. As they walked along, the professor would name everything. That tree belongs to whatever species, and that plant is such and such. That bush over there is so and so. That bird that just flew by is a whatever. The professor was a very informed man.

So, finally, the holy man said something that the professor never could quite get. The holy man said, "Drop your knowledge, knowledge is worthless. Wonder is precious."

[SOFT BLEETING FROG SOUNDS]

LOPEZ: Isn't this one of the most beautiful things you've ever heard?

[FROG SOUNDS]

LOPEZ: But still, I wonder, is it a frog or is it a toad?

[FROG SOUNDS]

CURWOOD: The singing frogs of the Pantanal was produced by Tom Lopez as part of the Hearing Voices series, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

[MUSIC]

 

 

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