Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Herald Sun vs. The Growling Grass Frog

The Herald Sun has offended us all in the past, but there comes a point where you have to say ‘enough is enough’. For me, that moment came most recently when the Sun started picking on the Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) for being a hindrance to Melbourne developers - Growling grass frog cost $2.6 billion, Herald Sun 29th Nov 2011.

The contention of the article is that these local amphibians are halting development in some of Melbourne’s growth corridors. 'Fair enough' you may say, the presence of these frogs can affect development due to their designation as an endangered species in Victoria. But the Sun isn’t interested in being fair. From the outset the article transparently supports development over endangered species, saying that land has been made ‘worthless’ and then, without any supporting evidence whatsoever, questioning whether the species really is endangered.

Can we assume that the sources they quote will shed some light on the issue? Nope. Here’s state planning minister Matthew Guy with his take on Litoria raniformis: “I don’t know if it is endangered,” That’s right - this man who can’t even be bothered to Google: “Growling Grass Frog endangered?” was deemed relevant enough to be the first source quoted in this article. For the record, the Growling Grass Frog is classified as ‘endangered’ in Victoria and is classified as ‘vulnerable’ at a federal level. Why is it classified as endangered? Because its population appears to be decreasing. Why is its population decreasing? A number of factors, but overwhelmingly because its habitat is being destroyed or degraded. That's why we have laws in place to limit development in the habitats of vulnerable species such as the Growling Grass Frog.

Although only a brief article, the story reaches a surreal level of breathtaking inanity in the final sentence. Urban Development Institute of Australia chief executive Tony De Domenico is quoted as saying how frustrated he is at being thwarted by endangered species in his development dealings. (Funny how the article only contains quotes from people sympathetic to development and not, you know, people who know things about ecology and frogs and stuff, isn’t it?) "Some of these so-called endangered species are so endemic they are found everywhere." says Tony. This statement is so astonishingly stupid that it almost defies belief. For those who don’t know - Mr. De Domenico for example - ‘endemic’, when referring to a particular species, means that it is restricted to a particular area. Tasmanian Devils are endemic to Tasmania, Dodos were endemic to Mauritius, and Growling Grass Frogs are endemic to parts of south-eastern Australia. Endemic is the exact opposite of ‘found everywhere’. Ignorance, it would seem, is endemic to the Herald Sun.

If the Sun is opposed to Growling Grass Frogs halting development, fine - write an opinion piece about it, instead of wasting everybody’s time with this sort if pseudo-journalism. Maybe if the Sun actually considered consulting experts who had some clue as to what they were talking about, we wouldn’t be assailed with ignorant scribble like this. But that’s not the Sun’s style; they have shown time and again that they’re not interested in hearing from scientists unless they can be used to reinforce their preexisting beliefs. Let’s hope that enough people see through this sort of nonsense and put their support behind species like the Growling Grass Frog to ensure the success of their populations in stressful habitats like the Melbourne area.