Arthur White

Arthur White is an environmentalist and herpetologist who is known as ‘the frog man’. In this interview he talks about childhood influences, the decline of habitat for native animals in urban Sydney, adaptation and regeneration, especially with regard to frogs. In the excerpt below Arthur describes surprise experiences of native fauna in densely built-up Sydney.

We had one [frog pond] that was built in the backyard of quite a small terrace house on Abercrombie Street – so this is right in the heart of the city. The chap there, his backyard probably measured probably no more than about five metres by seven metres, and what he ended up doing was he got a whole lot of old wine barrels and cut them in half and sealed them so that they didn’t leak and positioned them in different parts around the – we’ll call it a backyard but probably courtyard’s a better description – and established plants and so on around it. It ended up quite a green space that he had, with various little water bodies and so on there. After about ten years he had five species of frogs living there and it’s really quite amazing. Sometimes we’d be walking up to his place and, of course, there’s just a solid wall of buildings along the front part of Abercrombie Street but you always knew when you were getting close to his place because you could hear the frog noise out the back. And often we’d be just standing there and you’d see other people walking along the street and they’d stop and you’d see them looking around because they weren’t sure whether it was a recording or what it was because it just seemed so out of place. But it just indicates that these little projects do work, and the other thing it drives home is just how much wildlife actually still does move around in the city, even in places that you least suspect it.

Jo Kijas