IT STARTED with a young boy, a 3D printer and a birthday present. Now there’s a plan to put a plastic frog on every desk in corporate South Africa.
The plan is the dream of pinpoint one executive search co-founder Clive Viveiros. The plastic frog is the concept of 17-year-old James Balkwill, a South African born British teen obsessed with 3D printing who made Fred, a plastic frog.
He decided during his A-level year to leave little Freds around the school for other pupils to find. Teachers would find them and keep them for themselves. Other pupils would ask for them. Eventually James printed more than a thousand, in different colours.
Then he sent a Fred to an old South African family friend, art director Stephanne Erasmus, in a birthday parcel James’s family was sending out to Erasmus in South Africa in January. The frog started happy news reports; in addition to the frog there was also a 3D printed octopus and a dragon hidden in the parcel too. Viveiros was there when the parcel was opened – and was intrigued by this story which had started as a good-natured prank, but was now something much bigger
“Clive was intrigued by the concept of how these frogs had started happy news reports,” Erasmus explains. “I went to the UK and stayed with James and his family and we were talking about trying to get the frogs into every country in the world.
“When I started reading up more about the frogs, you see how vitally important they are. They’re tiny but their impact on the ecosystem is immense. They’re always close to water, you get medicine from frogs, they can jump 20 times their height.”
Erasmus came back to South Africa with 60 of the 3D printed frogs. Viveiros wanted 20 of them to hand out to his staff, family and friends.
“I was fascinated by the whole concept,” said Viveiros, “about how people were starting to use it as a symbol of hope.”
His staff adopted it as quickly as the recipients in the UK had, proudly displaying them on their computer screens at works and putting them in their handbags or pockets when they left for the day. There was a special frog too, a red one, which would be given to the person who’d made the biggest placement that day, but would then rotate to the person who made the next placement sparking some lively intra-office rivalry.
“Frogs mean different things to different people. We’ve given them to staff and we’ve given them to selected clients too who have all loved them and are clamouring for more.”
COVID-19 has wreaked its toll everywhere, he said, “we can see it in our clients and in our businesses, there’s more trauma and it affects everything; relationships are unstable and careers are insecure.
“We want this little frog to say, ‘you’re not alone’. We wanted to share it with the country because the consequences of this pandemic are so real.”
But it’s also a great way to celebrate the company’s birthday, which was formed on Workers’ Day in 1999, so now the company has partnered with a local 3D printer to being manufacturing their own frogs to kickstart the happy news reports in this country.
“We are a committed South African company, which puts its money where its mouth is. We’ve survived COVID, but like everyone else we’ve experienced the worst of it. We are committed to making this country work whichever way we can and this way is more than a token, it’s actually our commitment to one another and South Africa,” says Viveiros. “The happy news story of the frog reminds us that we are survivors and that we are resilient in the face of adversity.”
For Erasmus, he gives the frogs he’s still got from his trip to people to brighten up their lives or just to thank them.
“I’ve been on a very big international advertising project that is being shot in this country and I had to get two new assistants. I met these two new people and they did an incredible job so to thank them I got them a personalised thermal coffee mug, but I put a frog in each of them.”
Both of his assistants are middle aged – and totally besotted with the frogs, which they take wherever they go.
“This is the thing; these people don’t know anything about the frogs and that is what is so fantastic about these frogs. We know the reality that we live in and sometimes that reality isn’t the most pleasant reality, but sometimes a tiny frog in a coffee cup can make such an impression.
“It comes from a place of complete honesty and complete love; it’s about caring for the world and all we can do is our little bit. It’s the simplest thing of giving and caring and showing that we care. That’s what makes it so special because it’s in the DNA of humans that we do care.”
- If you would like to know more about the #LoveMeLoveMyFrog campaign – or be part of it – visit pinpointone.co.za for more information.
Frog fact sheet
- A frog is an indicator species: it shows the state of the ecosystem
- It is estimated that 200 species of frogs have become extinct since the 1970s – the harbinger of greater biodiversity loss as earth faces its sixth mass extinction event
- Frogs play a vital role in the ecosystem; they prevent disease transmission by eating potential carriers and keep waterways clean
- Frogs are important for medical advancements. Their skin secretes toxins and other fluids which have led to incredible pharmaceutical discoveries
- 10% of Nobel prizes in physiology and medicine resulted from frog research.
- There is evidence that frogs have roamed the Earth for more than 200 million years, at least as long as the dinosaurs
- The world’s largest frog is the goliath frog of West Africa—it can grow to 40cm and weigh up to 3,2kg.
- The smallest is the Cuban tree toad, which grows to 1,3cm
- Frogs in captivity have been known to live more than 20 years
- There are over 6,000 species of frogs worldwide. Scientists continue to search for new ones
- Toads are frogs. The word “toad” is usually used for frogs that have warty and dry skin, as well as shorter hind legs
- A frog completely sheds its skin about once a week. After it pulls off the old, dead skin, the frog usually eats it
- When Darwin’s frog tadpoles hatch, a male frog swallows the tadpoles. He keeps the tiny amphibians in his vocal sac for about 60 days to allow them to grow. He then proceeds to cough up tiny, fully formed frogs
- A group of birds is called a flock, a group of cattle is called a herd, but a group of frogs is called an army
- The glass froghas translucent skin, so you can see its internal organs, bones and muscles through its skin. You can even observe its heart beating and its stomach digesting food
- There is a frog in Indonesia that has no lungs– it breathes entirely through its skin
- The waxy monkey frog secretes a wax from its neck and uses its legs to rub that wax all over its body. The wax prevents the skin of the frog from drying out in sunlight
- Most frogs have teeth, although usually only on their upper jaw. The teeth are used to hold prey in place until the frog can swallow it
- There’s a type of poison dart frog called the blue-jeans frog; it has a red body with blue legs. It is also sometimes called the strawberry dart frog
- One gram of the toxin produced by the skin of the golden poison dart frog could kill 100,000 people
- The red-eyed tree frog lays its eggs on the underside of leaves that hang over water. When the eggs hatch, the tadpoles fall into the water below
- Frogs were the first land animals with vocal cords. Male frogs have vocal sacs—pouches of skin that fill with air. These balloons resonate sounds like a megaphone, and some frog sounds can be heard from a mile away.
- Like all amphibians, frogs are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperatures change with the temperature of their surroundings. When temperatures drop, some frogs dig burrows underground or in the mud at the bottom of ponds. They hibernate in these burrows until spring, completely still and scarcely breathing.
- The wood frog of North America actually freezes in the winter and is reanimated in the spring. When temperatures fall, the wood frog’s body begins to shut down, and its breathing, heartbeat and muscle movements stop. The water in the frog’s cells freezes and is replaced with glucose and ureato keep cells from collapsing. When there’s a thaw, the frog’s warms up, its body functions resume and it hops off like nothing ever happened
- The Australian water-holding frog is a desert dweller that can wait up to seven years for rain. It burrows underground and surrounds itself in a transparent cocoon made of its own shed skin.
- Frogs are freshwater creatures, although some frogs such as the Florida leopard frog are able to live in brackish or nearly completely salt waters
“Insect masses like fireworks explode.
Dengue, Malaria, West Nile Virus:
Discomfort, despair will fill your abode.
This is what your life will be without us.”
—Frog Poetry by Michael Dutton
- They have almost 180-degree vision.
- Frogs have a unique eye position that allows them to see in front of, to the side, and slightly behind them. They also have night vision because they are nocturnal creatures who hunt at night.
- Some leap 20 times their body length.
- This number is only an average. The cricket frog has been known to jump 60 times its body length. To put that into perspective, that would be like a human jumping up a 38-story building.
- They dig burrows to keep warm.
- Frogs are cold-blooded animals, and they rely on warm weather to keep from freezing. When the temperatures drop, some frog species burrow underground or below mud where they hibernate until spring.