As evening fell, the stillness of the Lawacherra was suddenly broken by a chorus of croaks. Each one lasted from between 100 to 600 milliseconds. The varying number of notes composed of unclear pulses gave a clear hint of the originator of the sounds. It was the Smiths Litter Frog, a permanent resident of Lawacherra National Forest in Kamalganj Upazila of Moulvibazar.
The frog was named after Malcom Arthur Smith, one of the early herpetologists to study the amphibians of Thailand.
A student of Forestry and Environmental Science Department of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Animesh Ghose Ayon, who was with me on this incursion, informed that these frogs are mainly found in hilly areas, especially in the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts including Sylhet and Moulvibazar.
The specie is also widely distributed in Cambodia, Myanmar, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
At first glance, the frog comes off as quite strange. Grey on the upper portion of its back, the monotony of the colour is interrupted by black stripes with white borders. Its hind limbs are short yet double the size of their forelimb. The key identification characteristics of this frog are the upperparts of iris, which is scarlet in colour. This is also its most striking feature.
The frogs typically live under the cover of the foliage, in the bushes or in the holes in the tree trunks. They prefer the humid surroundings of the hills.
Animesh, who researches on the frogs, said they were nocturnal. They inhabit the forest land, specifically rainforest regions, as well as dense mixed deciduous forest, where the leaf litter is abundant and close to a water source.
The male frogs start calling from dawn and end at dusk. Their population trend is stable and their diet consists of insects and worms. Surprisingly, the frog does not occur in places where there are Akashi or Mahogany trees.
Jabed Bhuiyan, joint-convener of Lawacherra Bon O Jibo boichitro Rokha Andolon said, the destruction of forests and the different ecosystems threatens the existence of the frogs.