The Sauter's Frog (Rana sauteri) Habitat Conservation Project

This is how the story began.

The Dashanbei area of Hengshan Township, Hsinchu County, is home to many lush, natural ecologies. The Sauter’s Frog (Rana sauteri) is a unique local species that lives in the mountains, forests, and creeks of the region. When mating season arrives in October, the frogs will emerge from their hidden habitats, cross roads and rivers, find a mate, and lay their eggs. However, the cars on the roads often kill large numbers of these poor frogs during their mating migration. The Hsinchu Branch of the Society of Wilderness (SOW) has carried out many in-situ observations, environmental surveys, and ecological tours. In a study carried out in October 2008, the SOW found that over 100 frogs are accidentally killed daily while crossing the roads. Such figures could lead to an irreversible collapse of the frog population and this is why the SOW immediately established a frog protection task force, recruiting volunteers to “help the frogs cross the streets” and get them safely to the other side. UMC began working with the SOW in July 2014 in The Sauter’s Frog (Rana sauteri) Habitat Conservation Project. It is hoped that human intervention and conservation efforts could help sustain the natural ecologies of the Dashanbei region. This Conservation Project was supported by a fund established by UMC after conducting the first carbon trading transaction in Taiwan. The Project would focus on the 2 major dimensions of ecological conservation and ecological education to provide long-term care and protection for Taiwan's local ecologies.

Project Outcome:

1. Training of frog conservation volunteers

During the 2014-2016 project period, UMC trained 16 volunteers in frog protection, totaling 96 hours. The training was also extended to the community and community volunteers, and a total of nearly 4,000 volunteers were trained.

2. Ecological surveys

Professor Chuang Mingfeng from Tonghai University was appointed to study the spawning grounds of the Sauter's Frog and record the physical environmental factors at various spawning sites, including the time and space distribution of the spawning, and the water temperature, water level, acidity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, distance from land, and presence or absence of stones. Information on these environmental factors are used to assess the conditions of the spawning environment of the Sauter's Frog and provide reference for creating or maintaining suitable spawning ground in the conservation effort.

3. Habitat conservation

- On April 22, 2015 World Earth Day, 60 employees were called to respond to habitat conservation.

- In 2015, together with The Society of Wilderness, 198 volunteers built a 200m ecological stone ditch to preserve the wealth of local natural resources.

- In 2016, working holiday volunteer activities were organized to continue habitat maintenance.

4. Help the Frogs Cross the Road

October is breeding season for the Sauter's Frog. Since 2015, together with The Society of Wilderness Hsinchu Branch, the Frog Crossing event has been held each year to protect the frogs. The personal involvement of employees, their families and the community increased their awareness of frogs and ecology, helped them understand the importance of ecological conservation, and jointly put into practice environmental education.
In 2018, a total of 42 people participated, and through our colleagues' actual experience, care and participation, it has been transformed into a positive force, making the ecological environment better.

Liu Yueh-Mei
The Society of Wilderness - Director of the Hsinchu Branch

Background of the frog protection effort

Every region has its own unique features and activities, and we started working on the frog conservation project after the SOW Hsinchu Branch frog investigation team conducted its surveys of frog populations in various areas. The results from October 2008 showed that many frogs in the Dashanbei region were killed as they tried to cross the roads. After discussions, the volunteers decided to Help the Frogs Cross the Road much like how volunteer mothers help out at road crossings at various schools. Things did not start off easily at first. We had zero experience and data on the period when the frogs appear or the means of getting the frogs safely to the other side of the road. Efforts in the first year mainly focused on data collection and records. We also found that we were undermanned and hoped to recruit additional volunteers from local residents to help defend the habitats. Of course, our volunteers tend to be either very old or very young, so we are still working on this. Our frog protection project actually served as a starting point to help people appreciate frog protection as a concept for protecting the entire ecosystem and to ensure ecological integrity.

Are there any difficulties encountered during the project? Is there anything that was difficult to implement?

Before we started working with UMC on their Eco-Echo Sauter’s Brown Frog habitat conservation project, the first difficulty was the need to acquire funding. SOW representatives worked very hard to promote the project and initiated many charity sales events for items such as the illustrated book “Jump! Sauter!”, hand-made soaps, and other goods to collect the needed money to ensure success of our project and subsidize the insurance needed by our volunteers who carried out various tasks and missions. The second problem had to do with people. Many people enjoy embarking on eco-tours at Dashanbei in the name of science and education. This brought them in conflict with the frog conservation program of the SOW. When Dashanbei became a tourist destination, many people started treating it as a resource, and this has affected local ecologies. The third problem was the research program. There were many studies that we wished to carry out during the project. This includes the setup of the ecological corridor, studies on the mating season and breeding time of the Sauter’s Frog, and DNA studies of the frog populations. All these investigations are still being pursued. For the ecological corridor, the SOW will first adopt the Dashanbei habitat and make use of working holidays to maintain the region.

Feedback or support with the UMC partnership:

Frog protection and environmental protection efforts at the Dashanbei region require large numbers of volunteers each year to acquire data on frogs crossing the streets and help promote public awareness. We must also compile and analyze data points, revise survey positions as well as add new ones. We also need expert support for our ecological corridor planning to recommend the best locations available. We’ve assigned a number of volunteers to carry out these environmental education tasks, but we still require funding and support to provide volunteers with insurance, purchase of equipment and instruments needed for various activities, invite experts and academicians to discuss research topics and conferences, and train volunteers in their respective areas. Before we received corporate sponsorship, the SOW had to rely on volunteers to implement donation drives. The amount of funding obtained was only sufficient in providing insurance payments as well as maintenance of various equipment. We were unable to conduct research or planning for the future. With UMC’s funding and support, we were able to come up with better habitat planning and protection along multiple dimensions. For example, we organized and implemented habitat cleaning and environmental maintenance projects on Earth Day, and restored Dashanbei sign boards and displays to their pristine status. Additional volunteers also allowed us to create stone-lined water channels, providing a man-made but non-concrete and eco-friendly creek in Dashanbei. Funding provided in this partnership allowed the SOW to increase the scope of environmental protection and education. This also allowed us to initiate proper planning. For example, we were able to convert the illustrated book titled Help the Frogs Cross the Road into an e-book so that it could be distributed to more readers. The ecological conservation background of Help the Frogs Cross the Road was also converted into a micro movie. During the production process, movie directors also became more supportive of ecological conservation efforts, while viewers came to understand the emotional story between people and the natural inhabitants of Dashanbei. We also organized eco-photography exhibits to display what the volunteers saw and photographed as they carried out the frog conservation program. Visitors to the exhibit learned how to appreciate the things around them and the importance of getting in touch with nature and conduct more interactions with the natural environment.
Corporate sponsorship, NGO volunteers, environmentally friendly concepts and actions, as well as government support helped to invigorate ecological conservation efforts and improved our hopes for achieving ecological sustainability.

Expectations for the general public:

Modern lifestyles compel us to get what we want quickly and demand immediate results. We hope to be able to slowly change this approach. We should instead establish a target and work slowly towards it. Results will emerge after a period of dedicated hard work. Strong support from the business world, the government, and the people carrying out their respective tasks will help to ensure that we realize our goals.

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