By Clare Walker.

A rare amphibian with red legs is on its way to Britain from South Africa and goes by the name of ... Christine Watson.

Yorkshire explorer Martin Pickersgill discovered the new species of frog in a tropical rainforest - and named the creature after his girlfriend.

The 41-year-old adventurer from Pudsey, Leeds, who spent 10 months frog-searching in Africa, said yesterday: "I found nine new varieties but named the rarest after Christine.

"It is a tiny little frog with red legs and Christine thinks it is great and a real privilege."

The frog is being shipped to Britain from Africa and Christine cannot wait to see her namesake.

"It's a real honour," she said yesterday.

"It would be nice to see my name put to something but I don't think there's any resemblance between us."

Martin, who already has a frog named after himself, set off on his 33,000km trek in October last year and at one point did not think he would survive the gruelling expedition.

"There were times I thought it was the end, like when I was hunting for frogs at night in a swamp full of crocodiles," he said.

"Because of some of the remote places I travelled to, I was almost expecting to get mugged, murdered, robbed, eaten by crocodiles or stamped on by hippos. "It was absolutely terrifying and I just wanted to give it all up but I knew I had to get back for Christine."

Martin's journey took him through South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Kenya. He survived several incidents, including being bitten by a snake, contracting malaria twice and falling down a cliff.

Martin sold his house to pay for the expedition after devoting his life to reptile research.

He has had 14 papers published in a variety of museum books and specialist magazines.

In spite of his terrifying experiences, he is already planning his next trek - searching for a creature known as Tokoloshe, the African equivalent of the Loch Ness monster.



A Jungle explorer returned from 10 months in Africa with a newly-discovered frog ... and named it Christine after his girlfriend.

Frog expert Martin Pickersgill, 41, braved swamps, floods, hurricanes, deadly crocodiles, tropical disease, heatstroke, and armed bandits while hunting for new species.

He was bitten by a snake, caught malaria, suffered hypothermia, crashed his car, fell down a cliff and had his leg infected by flesh-eating worms. But when he found the little red-legged frog, his heart was filled with joy. And he thought immediately of the love of his life, 35-year-old Christine Watson. Now he is back home with Christine who said said yesterday: "It's a real honour to have the frog named after me.

"It's a very rare frog - but I don't think it has any resemblance to me.

"Frogs are an all-consuming passion for Martin. Without them he wouldn't be the same guy."Martin's quest took him through South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi.

He said: "There were times when I was hunting frogs at night in a swamp full of crocodiles and I thought it was the end.

"In some of the remote places I went to I was just expecting to get mugged, murdered or robbed or eaten by a crocodile or stamped on by a hippo.

"It was absolutely terrifying and I just wanted to give it all up - but I had to do it.

"I've come back a lot thinner and look to have aged 10 years but I'm alive."

He added: "I started off my journey cycling and was doing about 60 miles a day but I ended up with heatstroke and exhaustion. I was travelling around some really remote African villages where water and food was often scarce.

"I was so hungry once I had to eat the tail of a monitor lizard.

"I was very weak at times and kept collapsing because of malaria but I kept going by treating myself with tablets."

Martin, from Pudsey, Yorks, is acknowledged worldwide as a frog expert and had one named after him.

This time he sold his house to pay for the expedition.

But he declared: "It has been worth it. It's something I've always wanted to do.

"I've come back with nine new species - including Christine Watson - which is a wonderful achievement."

Martin next plans to seek out the Africa's legendary tokoloshe, a hairy creature as elusive as the Loch Ness monster.

Christine said: "I will be annoyed if he finds that and names it after me."

(c) Mirror Group Ltd, 1997.
THE MIRROR 01/11/97 P19