It’s a rare and surprising sight to see a giant tree frog living in the middle of the city, let alone in the care of a family. This particular creature, larger than the average handspan, is not only well out of its habitat, but has spent the past five months housed as a pet in Tonle Bassac.
Ek Visarakkhun, the frog’s owner, first found the amphibian at the Dorng Ker shrine in front of the Royal Palace when he travelled there for morning exercise. In the time his family has sheltered the frog, it has grown from an already hefty frame to its current size, and now weighs about two kilograms.
“One morning while I was exercising, this frog comes up from the river toward me. Everyone there felt so surprised to see it, no-one had ever seen one that big before,” he says.
Visarakkhun immediately took pity on the frog, which was traumatised and had lost an eye after a nearby group of people picked it up and threw it at the rock wall along the river bank. At the time, Visarakkhun decided to gently take it back to the river, thinking it was far from home and wished to return to the banks of the Tonle Sap. The little creature refused to budge, so Visarakkhun took it into his car.
“At that time, I didn’t wish to keep it as a pet, I just felt pity for it,” he recalls. “If I left it at this place, it would have been caught by people and cooked for food.”
Visarakkhun racked his brain deciding where to release the frog into the wild, eventually deciding to either take it to Mount Prasithi west of the city or drop it in the pond at Wat Vihear Sour in the city’s east.
But his plans changed when the head monk of Wat Saravoan Dechor came to do a water ritual at his home, telling Visarakkhun: “You should not release this frog, and instead keep it as a pet in your home. This frog will bring good luck to you and family.”
If the frog has brought luck to Visarakkhun’s family, he has yet to notice in the time the critter has been in his care. When he went against the monk’s advice and took the frog to Wat Vihear Sour, the pagoda’s head monk reiterated the advice given to him earlier, saying that the frog is a reincarnation of his deceased relative.
Despite the monastic consensus, Visarakkhun remains sceptical.
To this day, the creature remains in the Ek family’s home, where it is fed and sheltered. Visarakkhun always brings it outside when it rains, and the frog is a popular addition to the street among his neighbours.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sou Vuthy at [email protected]