It was a small brown frog I held in my hand that day, plain and utterly unremarkable, small enough to walk by without a second glance. It was a Torrent Frog – a Sharp Snouted one to be exact, an inhabitant of small forest streams in North Eastern Australia. Such a ubiquitous creature that no-one invested time in understanding it, in fact more than one biologist described it to me as so common you were bound to step on a few en route to more interesting and important research pursuits. But she was dear to me. I had raised her from a tadpole and now she was mature, ripe eggs visibly bulging from her sides, I should have expected to find her breeding, she was young – in her prime, she should not be unwell!
It was not overly unusual for me to find a dead frog while doing my rounds at work; after all we had many frogs and like any animal some were bound to die. It was however quite usual for me to find a dying frog. This final act, wether by choice or coincidence was usually experienced in private, unwitnessed, silently. But nonetheless here she was, laying quietly in my hand, legs outstretched in spasm, alone with me at the end of her life. And as she passed she took with her an entire species, quietly into the oblivion of extinction.
How do you begin to describe extinction? Do you regurgitate clichés and platitudes? Do you drown its true meaning in science? Do you stomp your feet and demand it never happen again? I do not know how to describe it. I do not know what will reach people. But I do know what I saw, I do know what I felt and I do know what it did to me. So that is how I must tell it: as someone who watched extinction in my hand, who has walked in the lands of lost frogs and felt the silence of their ghosts.