<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible. </i>

Surfing Malibu Pier and hiking Malibu Creek State Park had been my brothers’ only topics of conversation for weeks. In a huddle, like two generals readying for a military operation, they mapped and planned the event for hours. This was highly unusual behavior for both of them.

The strategy was as follows: At exactly 0648 hours we would be on the beach greeting the sun. We would surf until 1055 hours, stopping for lunch at 1100 hours. Then, at precisely 1200 hours, we would deploy for the hike. I felt like saluting.

The unusual behavior did not stop there. The noise of sawing and hammering filled our garage. If I happened by, all activity would cease. When I asked what was up, the answer was the old “Oh, nothing song” sung in unison.  

The days marched by in double time. Finally on the beach, we watched as pale yellow tendrils of light streaked the indigo sky. The sun hit the water’s surface revealing wedging, 3-to-5 foot A-frames, with offshore winds. We were stoked! Paddling out we caught our first wave. Rusty dropped in and took off to the left while Richard and I shared the break to the right. It was like that all morning, perfection.   

At 1200 hundred hours, with our bellies full, we headed out. Picking up the hiking trail off of Pacific Coast Highway, we rambled along past towering oaks and grand sycamores that lined the stream side trail. Rusty and Richard took turns shouldering a large, curiously wrapped package as we trekked toward Rock Pool.

Rock Pool was an oasis after the long, dusty hike. I shrugged off my backpack and cannon balled in.  I waited for Richard and Rusty to do the same. Instead, they immediately started scouting around.

Rusty hooted with delight when he found a small pool full of tadpoles. They both cheered when Richard found a pair of California newts and Black-bellied salamanders. Spotting two Pacific tree frogs and several endangered California red-legged frogs, they exploded into a fist bumping frenzy followed by a victory dance.

I continued to enjoy the water until Richard yelled, “We found them all,” and started ripping the paper off that oddly wrapped package. It was a large boat with several compartments for storage. Something seemed to come over him as he filled a compartment with water and hurriedly scooped in some tadpoles. Frantically, almost in a panic, Rusty collected the newts and salamanders. I knew something had to be done when I saw them knocking each other over as they scrambled after frogs. I yelled, “Stop.” That broke the spell.

The story unfolded after I convinced my brothers to release everything back. The boat was an ark, an amphibian ark. It was designed to rescue and protect our seriously declining amphibian population against any further damage from habitat loss, global warming and pollution.

Richard told me that one-third of all amphibians, not just the colorful rainforest species, were being threatened and that 2,000 to 3,000 could go extinct in our lifetime. The last time we experienced an extinction crisis like this all the dinosaurs died out. How could he let that happen to the amphibians?

Rusty was concerned because amphibians sit in the middle of the food web. Without them an unwanted cascade of effects would occur in our ecosystems. They were both amazed to find that amphibians carry secrets to biomedicine. Scientists have found anti-microbial substances in the skin of certain frogs that stopped HIV infection. These virus-blocking substances could be lost forever, along with those yet to be discovered.

Searching for a plan, Richard had come across the Amphibian Ark Program. It was one piece of a larger amphibian conservation plan. It fueled his imagination and the idea for the ark was born.

I understood and supported their intentions but didn’t see how this plan could work. Where would they send the ark once it was full?

After a lengthy conference, we decided that for now, protecting our treasures in place might be the best solution. We would organize an information campaign to help people better understand the irreplaceable value of amphibians.  

With a new plan in development, Richard and I felt free to enjoy a long paddle around Rock Pool.  However, overly influenced by late night TV, Rusty felt compelled to utter a piercing Tarzan yell, swung across the pool on a vine and dive in with a huge water displacing splash. Sputtering, he came back to the surface laughing and said, “OK, who is the best, me or Johnny Weissmuller?”

Note: The real Amphibian Ark was born to collect critically endangered species from the wild to protect and breed them in zoos, aquariums and in some cases on-site in the wild. For more information, go to www.aza.org or www.amphibianark.org.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com.

 

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