Royal leapfrog

A newly discovered tree frog has been named after Prince Charles in recognition of his charity work to protect its rainforest home.

Hyloscirtus princecharlesi, or the Prince Charles stream tree frog, was discovered by Dr. Luis A. Coloma in 2008 among specimens collected for a museum. A subsequent expedition in the Cotacachi-Cayapas National Park, Ecuador, found a small number of the frogs after areas of the forest were cleared for agriculture. Two juvenile frogs are now being raised in captivity as part of the Amphibian Ark project in the hope they will breed and eventually boost populations in the wild.

Unfortunately, Prince Charles does not have a very good reputation when it comes to looking after amphibious pets. In the film Flushed Away – one of the great productions to come out of Dreamworks Animation alongside Chicken Run and How to Train Your Dragon – the plot hinges on royal preferment of a mouse over a toad.

This very British film, released in 2006, follows the antics of Roddy St. James, a posh pet mouse who lives in Kensington. While his owner is away on holiday Roddy amuses himself all alone the house. When a sewer rat named Sid pops out of the sink and decides to stay, especially as England are playing against Germany in the final of the World Cup, Roddy schemes to lure him into the “Jacuzzi”, which is actually the toilet.

Sid may be an ignorant slob, but he smells a rat. Playing along, he seizes his chance to push Roddy down the toilet and flushes him away. In the depths of the sewer, in a mouseland reminiscent of Piccadilly Circus, Roddy meets Rita, who works the drains in her faithful boat, the Jammy Dodger. At first Rita does not like Roddy, but ends up taking him with her when her arch enemy The Toad sends his ratty henchmen, Spike and Whitey, after her because she stole back her father’s prize ruby.

The Toad despises all rodents, blaming rats for his fall from grace as Prince Charles’ pet. There is a wonderful scene in which The Toad reminisces about his previous life, wallowing in luxury and surrounded by royal memorabilia before being replaced by Roddy and ignominiously flushed down the toilet. The Toad’s revenge involves opening the sewer’s floodgates during half-time at the World Cup – when London’s population up above rush to the toilet – drowning the rats and their underground city.

Mark Twain wrote about amphibian skills in his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1867):

“He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal’lated to educate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he did learn him, too. He’d give him a little punch behind, and the next minute you’d see that frog whirling in the air like a doughnut – see him turn one summerset, or maybe a couple if he got a good start, and come down flat-footed and all right, like a cat. He got him up so in the matter of ketching flies, and kep’ him in practice so constant, that he’d nail a fly every time as fur as he could see him. Smiley said all a frog wanted was education, and he could do ’most anything – and I believe him.”

Prince Charles may never meet his namesake, Hyloscirtus princecharlesi, but if he does, he can’t say he hasn’t been doubly warned.


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