Not Your Average Day at the Races — The International Bornean Frog Race

Posted by - October 8, 2014 | Category: The Yard

International Bornean Frog Race, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

Borneo is no stranger to races. There’s the International Bird Race, the Borneo International Marathon, and a hodgepodge of Sabah Adventure Races (one of them is a 250k marathon through the jungle. Nutters.)

And now the frogs have joined the party.

White-lipped Frog, International Bornean Frog Race, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

The International Bornean Frog Race 2015 will be the fourth year this event is to be held. I attended the 2014 edition, so here’s what to expect.

First of all. It’s hot. It’s sticky. And this frog race is at night.

It’s not the type of frog race you would think. There is no firing gun. There are no frogs jumping out of a gate to race to a finish line. There are no frog-sized hurdles they must hop (although how fun would that be?)

International Bornean Frog Race, Kubah National Park, Matang, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

This is a race for humans.

The goal is to spot, photograph, and document as many frog species as you can within a two-hour period. I thought maybe if I was lucky I’d spot two or three. (I mean, it is nighttime in the Borneo jungle.) I managed to get 14 different species. With lots of repeats. A testament to just how rich the wildlife really is in these parts.

International Bornean Frog Race, Kubah National Park, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

The Borneo Frog Race is modeled after Borneo’s annual International Bird Race and entails participants combing the trails at the Serapi foothills within Kubah National Park. Since folks are only given two hours, and it takes a good half an hour (uphill!) in the dark to reach the park’s frog pond, you’ve really only got an hour for the actual hunt.

A full third of the frog species on this planet are under threat of extinction. The event is designed to raise awareness of the plight of the humble frog through talks, exhibitions, and even a Frog Photography Workshop.  The ultimate goal of course is promoting frog conservation.

There’s even Frog Watching Code of Ethics.

Frog observation code of ethics -- International Bornean Frog Race, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

The talks during the one-day event offer plenty to learn about all things frog, but I was drawn to some of the more bizarre facts about frogs through history. Like how the Navajo believe you will have throat problems if you watch frogs eat, or how some folks in India perform frog weddings to invoke rain.

And of course the well-known properties of frogs as a hallucinogenic.

Hallucinogenic properties of frogs -- International Bornean Frog Race, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

And the littler-known fact that they’re also used for zombification!

Zombification by frog -- International Bornean Frog Race, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

There were 175 participants in the 2014 Borneo Frog Race, mostly university students, up from 75 in 2013, and a mere 30 froggers in its first year, 2012.

Registration desk -- International Bornean Frog Race, Matang, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

While some came for the education about frog conservation, most were here for one thing – to see frogs.

International Bornean Frog Race, Kumpah, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia-288

International Bornean Frog Race, Kumpah, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia-319

International Bornean Frog Race, Kumpah, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia-359

International Bornean Frog Race, Kumpah, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia-381

International Bornean Frog Race, Kumpah, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia-388

Of all the frogs spotted during the event, this one was perhaps my favourite – the Bornean Horned Toad, also called the Long-Nosed Horned Toad. If I didn’t have the handy frog identification booklet the organizers gave me I’d be hard pressed to even know it was a frog.

Bornean Horned Toad, International Bornean Frog Race,, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia

It’s done a pretty admirable job of camouflaging itself. I think it says something about mankind when the evolution of any critter lies in its ability to hide from us.

The 2015 International Bornean Frog Race will take place on April 25, 2015. Further information and links to the registration page can be found at the Sarawak Tourism website.

What are your thoughts on the Borneo Frog Race?

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27 comments - add one
  1. This sounds like SO much fun! I would love to participate in this! What an interesting idea 🙂

  2. That is a pretty cool way of educating people on Borneo’s eco-system. That’s for sure! What kind of “prize” is there for finding the most number of frogs in this scavenger hunt?

  3. Very cool event! Though don’t the camera flashes stress the frogs? I’d think it would make a little more sense to photograph them during the day when you didn’t need to use the flash, unless they are just impossible to find during daylight hours?

    1. Hi Leah, good question! The frogs only come out at night, but the Photography Workshop earlier that day stressed “Do NOT use your flash when photographing the frogs.” Most folks had flashlights instead, but some unfortunately just didn’t listen.

  4. Oh my goodness! This activity sounds like it was designed specifically for me! I love travel, nature, hiking, scavenger hunts and frogs! I can’t wait to travel to Borneo and join in the fun.

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