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March 31, 2011

Hallmark Sells Frogs?

My daughter's birthday was last week, and she received a gift from a friend of mine (who meant well) that rocked our world... and not in a good way.  But we created a happy, rescue situation regardless.  Here's what happened:

Anyone who knows my daughter knows she loves animals.  Which is why she usually receives something revolving around this theme whenever any gift-giving time comes around.  Sometimes it's an adoption certificate (ASPCA, WWF, etc.), a stuffed animal, a real animal, or all the above.  This birthday was an aquatic one.  She received (among other things) a new betta fish from me, and from my friend (again bless her heart, she didn't know what she was doing)...

two African Dwarf Frogs inside a tiny, 1/3 of a gallon plastic prison from Hallmark.

"Hallmark sells frogs?"  Sure enough there was a Hallmark sticker still on the side of the tank.  To be honest my response was "how cute are these guys?", but my daughter gasped and stood transfixed.  My friend and I thought she was in awe.  She wasn't.  "This is so bad!" ( Luckily this reaction didn't phase my friend.)

Now, I'm no herpitologist, but I do work with amphibians and reptiles (the local ones only, obviously) more often than most people do.   And, as a Naturalist, I should've known immediately that this little "habitat" was wrong - like my daughter did.   But this was the last gift my girl opened, and I was caught up in all the "birthday cheer" of the day.

We took a field trip to the local Hallmark.  Several of these aquariums were perched on top of a shelf and sold with picture frames and pretty paper weights (which is what I think this is supposed to be, sadly enough).  They are called "EcoAquariums" and they are made by a company called Wild Creations.  When we started to ask the clerk questions, she said they just got them in 4 days ago and had only just fed them for the first time.  It was pretty busy in there, and I didn't want to be confrontational until I knew more. 

According to the "literature" that came with the frogs:
  • The frogs, the aquarium plant, and the gravel "work in harmony to create a completely filter-free ecosystem habitat."
  • "Your 'EcoAquarium' will clean and condition itself with very little additonal care."
  • Feeding: "2 pellets per frog, 2 times per week" using the frog pellets that came with them.
  • "Change the aquarium water every 3 months" using "room temperature spring water."
  • "Keep water at room temperature, 68-84F/20-29C."
  • The life of the frog is "guaranteed for one year."
That sounded like a bunch of baloney to me.  So I called the experts on exotic frogs:  Fauna in New York.  I described the "EcoAquarium" and here's what they had to say:
  • First, "Hallmark sells frogs?"  Then...
  • Each frog needs a minimum space of 1 gallon.  So, since there's 2, a minimum of 2 gallons is needed.  (They were actually pretty pissed at the fact that there were two fogs in this tiny cube.  One of them said, "There's 2 of them in there?  Oh, that really makes me mad!"). 
  • There's no such thing as a "filter-free" aquarium. Yes, the gravel does help their environment, but it does not keep it clean... especially such a tiny space. The larger the tank, the easier it is to keep clean.  They need a filter.
  • They should be fed at least 3 times per week and with a diverse diet.  Pellets alone are not going to keep them healthy.  They suggested alternating the pellets with frozen blood worms. 
  • Partial water changes should be weekly, not once every 3 months!
  • Using spring water is okay, but it's too soft.  The best water to use is to completely dechlorinate regular tap water. 
  • These are tropical creatures.  And like tropical fish, they need a heater.  Water temperature is always slightly cooler than the air temperature.  So, if your home is set at the minimum 68F/20C, then the water wouldn't be warm enough.  And actually, the frogs need to be in a temperature of about 77F/25C. 
  • They need some place to hide.  These are timid creatures, and being kept out in the open without something to crawl under or into will stress them out. 
  • The average life span in the wild is 15 years.  The average life span in captivity is 5 years.  Hallmark guarantees the life of the frogs for one year!!  The way the frogs are being kept in these "EcoAquariums"... they will only last one year... if they're lucky. 
"So I guess you will want to return them?" 

An obvious first question my friend asked my daughter.  But, No.  If we return them, someone else will buy them, keep them in their cold, filthy prison and they will die.  My daughter's decision - which I support 100% - is to give them a better home.  I spent every bit of my free time this past week making sure I was doing everything I could to make sure these frogs have the best - and longest - possible life from now on.  And in eveything I did, I called/emailed Fauna and/or spoke to the aquarium specialists at my local pet store.  FYI - In case you were wondering, you cannot set these guys free as they are NOT part of your ecosystem (unless you live in the Congo region of Africa). 

But we won't be shopping at Hallmark while these torture devices are still being sold. 

Naturally we never would have bought something like this.  And if I had seen this at Hallmark myself I still would've done some research, made some phone calls, emails, letters, created a blog post, etc.  The post, however, would've been different, but with the same message:

Wild Creations PROMOTES cruelty to animals!

Before Hallmark, there was Brookstone...

After 18 months of protests, thousands of calls and emails, and appearances outside Brookstone stores by a guy in a giant frog costume, Brookstone had finally decided to pull a product they called the "Frog-O-Sphere" (also from Wild Creations) from its shelves. 

PETA started campaigning against the tiny plastic frog prisons after receiving complaints from Brookstone customers and after a whistleblower reported that frogs housed in the tiny 4in.H x4in.W x4in.D plastic boxes were neglected, deprived of veterinary care and adequate food, and kept in filthy water.  The whistleblower told PETA that when frogs became obviously ill and "unsaleable," they were moved to the store's storage rooms, where they wasted away and died. 

PETA's undercover investigation of Wild Creations revealed filthy conditions and deadly neglect.  In some cases, frogs were so hungry that they chewed each other's legs off.  In some other cases, 37 out of 40 frogs died in shipment to the stores after they were left in a container so long that they suffered from heat prostration. 

Now Hallmark is selling them.  Please, please tell Hallmark to stop selling them!
call:  1-800-425-5627
mail:  Hallmark Customer Service, P.O. Box 419034, Mail Drop 216, Kansas City, MO, 64141 US.
No email address is available that I can find.  If you have/know it, please let me know. 

And tell Wild Creations that it's an idiotic idea to throw 2 frogs and some gravel into a container smaller than a shoebox and leave them there their entire lives!
email:  info@wildcreations.com
call:  (843) 448-8880
fax:  (843) 448-8988
mail:  Wild Creations, 1560 Pine Island Rd. unit C, Myrtle Beach, SC, 29577 US.

And now I give you Tom and Jerry in their clean, warm, 3-gallon tank with juicy blood worms in their bellies and a castle fit for a king to hide in!

The boys will be given more room in the near future.  This is what we had on hand, and they're doing fine.    We just wanted them to live happily ever after ASAP.  

If you already are the owner of an EcoAquarium or a Frog-O-Sphere, please give them a better home, but first, get professional advice from your local pet store or contact Fauna.  Do Not transplant them without knowing what you are doing.  And DO NOT leave them where they are! 

The lives of these helpless froggies are depending on you. 
Download PETA's free app.

March 22, 2011

Here Comes The Sun, cont.

In my nostalgia for summers past and anticipation of summers to come, I think of swimming, kayaking, basking in the sun while wiggling my toes into warm sand at the beach, and reveling in the sights, sounds, and smells of flowers, bees, and birds. 

For me, summer used to begin on the first day of school vacation, the season of long days.  But a more universal, and just as specific, beginning of summer (in the northern hemisphere) is the vernal (spring) equinox ("equal night"), when the night and day are the same length. 

Members of many species, myself included, become more alive again at this first "scent" of summer.  Skunks come out of their dens, and we get the first whiffs of their presence.  Chipmunks emerge from underground and leave their first tracks on the softening snow.  The yearling beavers leave their dens as their parents get ready to have new pups. 

Flower buds of the willows, alder, beaked hazel, poplars, and elms are poised to respond to the first warmth, to open and reveal their beautiful colors and varied forms. 

Some of the birds that overwintered begin to sing, and the migrant birds are plying the skies by the millions on their way north from the tropics.  The first are starting to arrive. 

Nature is about to burst at the seams. 

Here comes the sun.  Doo'n do do.  Here comes the sun.  And I say, it's all right.

The warming sun signals relief, and I'm ready.  The rest of nature has been waiting and getting ready as well.

March 20, 2011

Here Comes the Sun... and You

Spring arrives today at 23:21 UTC (for those of us in America that's 6:21pm Eastern Daylight Time). 

Today is the perfect day to start a "New Year's Resolution." 


Because, starting a New Year's Resolution in January, the most depressing month of the year, is unproductive, and, therefore,... depressing when you fail.

So, why not start all the healthy and productive ideas you've been having now?

You most likely tried to do these things on January 1st and then failed a week or two into it. 

But now you have the sun!

You're no dummy.  You already know that sunlight is a natural anti-depressant, and that lack of sunlight causes depression. There's even a medical name for depression caused by a lack of sunlight - Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

So, why on earth would you think of motivating yourself to start something "out of the ordinary for you" on some of the most depressing days of the year and then be successful? 

You wouldn't, right?

Well, if there was at least half a day's worth of daylight, and you were getting more minutes of it every day, you would be more motivated to accomplish those resolutions. 

Studies show that it takes 28 days to form a habit.  So, if you were trying to change something about yourself, or your daily routine, and you wanted it to "stick," then you need to be motivated for at least 28 days to be successful. 

The minutes of daylight in each day has been increasing since December21st.  But, at (or around) the Spring Equinox, each day has more sunlight than darkness.  And the sunlight will grow until June 21st of this year. 

That's well over the 28 days you'll need to establish your healthy new habit!

And, the sun will still out-weigh darkness each day until September 23rd.  So, you'll be going strong with sunlight on your side for 6 whole months! 

So, when winter (and next New Year's) comes around, you will have to think of a new "New Year's Resolution," instead of trying to find a way to re-do last year's failures. 

But don't forget to wait until the Spring Equinox to actually start it.  You'll be more successful that way. 

Don't know what to change about yourself?  Here are some suggestions, in no particular order.

The Apple Guardian's Best Resolutions You Can Give Yourself:
  • Rescue an animal.  If you plan on getting a new pet, don't go to a breeder.  Getting your pet from a shelter saves the life of your pet and puts breeders out of business.  For more information on this visit the ASPCA or the Humane Society's website. 
  • Feed wild birds.  Or at least observe them.  You'll gain a new appreciation of our natural world.  You will even be more in tune to the rest of nature all around you. 
  • Exercise more.  Duh.  This is an obvious one.  But this time you are more likely to be successful.  And you won't believe how amazing you will feel when you can keep it up for a long period of time!
  • Smile more.  Seriously, try it.  People will respond to you like you are someone special.  And you are!  But most importantly, you will feel light-hearted and generous, which then will lead to even better relations with others.  Just start with random people you walk by every day.  You'll see. 
  • Learn a new language.  Have you ever seen two people trying to communicate to each other, and neither of them speak the same language as the other?  Do you notice that they each treat the other person as if that person were stupid?  Peace and compatibility start with understanding. 
  • Participate in outdoor activities.  Find an outdoor recreational sport that you've always been interested in - or something you've never tried - (preferably a non-polluting one) and start becoming a regular at it.  Once you develop a regular outdoor hobby, you will be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. 
  • Visit National/State parks.  There are National parks, forests, wildlife refuges and historical areas near you that you may not know about.  Find out where they are, and make a commitment to visit at least one a month.  Take family/friends or go alone.  You'll learn more about your area, enjoy time with others, and/or find a peaceful place to relax. 
  • Go organic.  Find out how organic foods are beneficial for you and the environment and where you can find them.  Turn all your meals 100% organic. 
  • Conserve energy.  Find out ways to lower your carbon footprint... and your energy costs.
  • Go Vegetarian.  Why?  Because it's healthier for you, the environment, and obviously the animals involved. 
  • Buy more fairly traded items.  When you, for example, purchase fairly traded coffee over regular coffee, you are ensuring that those who worked to produce your coffee was treated, well, fairly.  You will help those in poor countries to make a fair living and successfully raise their families.
  • Recycle.  This is a daily activity that you and your family can get into.  Call your local recycling office, obtain a recycling bin or two, learn what goes into it, and start recycling.  You'll find you have more recyclables than trash.  And that's okay.  There's too much trash not going anywhere anyway. 
  • Protect the world's habitats.  Okay, I know this one is loaded.  But just by doing several of the above, you will inadvertently be protecting the world's habitats.  Also find other ways to protect by volunteering, donating, etc.

March 1, 2011


Heavy rains scale down to intermittent showers.

The thaw begins.

Plants, insects, animals wend their way up to Earth's surface.

Quickly light increases.

Happy March!


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