Croak is a “book of fun for frog lovers”, compiled by Phil Bishop and published by Exisle. Phil was a beloved Zoology Professor at Otago, the Co-Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission Amphibian Specialist Group, and the Chief Scientist of the Amphibian Survival Alliance.
Phil’s full list of achievements would fill an entire issue of Critic alone. He was one of the foremost experts on frogs in the world, a luminary who discovered new species of frogs and educated people about their importance. He saw potential in the most unassuming of creatures — tadpoles and Zoology freshers alike — and stood up for them, always. Croak now serves as a tribute to a life spent at the forefront of conservation, as he sought to deepen our understanding of these vitally important amphibians.
There’s an incredible range of frogs that inhabit Croak’s pages. The blurb describes our amphibian friends as “one of the most varied and vibrant species on earth,” and the book delivers on that. There’s the Sumaco horned treefrog (not to be confused with a horny Sumaco treefrog), which is all angles and triangles, alongside an especially grumpy avocado-shaped giant rain frog. Some of them sport whimsical streaks of rainbow amphibian-plumage. Others are more brown and blobbish, but they still invariably bring a smile to your face. Many of the photos were taken by Phil himself.
The frogs are accompanied with quotes, from Goethe to David Attenborough to Katy Perry (“I Kissed a Frog”). It’s a frog-lover’s soirée. It turns out that the most astonishing range of people, from all eras in history, have been united in admiration for these critters.
Some of the quotes are funny. “Time’s fun when you’re having flies,” declares Kermit. Other quotes follow themes of conservation, science, or the enchanting effect of nature. There are poems and proverbs and quips. They all agree on one thing: Frogs are beautiful and deserve to be saved.
After reading Croak and looking up the species further afield online, it’s amazing how the next Google recommendation is always the phrase “Phil Bishop”. There’s a cliché saying that you pass away twice: Once when you stop breathing, and again when somebody says your name for the last time. In this respect, Phil lives on. He will never be forgotten.
Phil is dearly missed and Croak serves as a reminder to continue his mission. This piece will end with an excerpt from Croak’s introduction, written by Phil himself.
“Although we discover several new species of frogs each week, they are disappearing much faster than any other group of land animal, with more than 40 per cent of all species facing extinction. We need to look after the frogs now more than ever, otherwise our children, and their children, will never feel the enchantment of holding one of these beautiful creatures in their own hands and gazing into its very wise and ancient eyes. I have devoted my life to studying frogs and will not stop trying to save them from extinction until the day I die.”
Thank you, Phil, for everything.
You can buy Croak from Exisle Publishing (exislepublishing.com/product/croak/) or donate to the Amphibian Survival Alliance in Phil’s memory (amphibians.org/donate/).