A study by Froglife and partners from The University of Zurich in Switzerland has shown that on average common toads have declined by 68% over the last 30 years in the UK. In some areas, such as the south east of England, declines have been even more pronounced. These declines have been mirrored in Switzerland. The full paper was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE (http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161943).
Data for this study was collected by thousands of volunteers in the UK, working as part of Froglife’s ‘Toads on Roads’ patrols, who go out every year to help save amphibians as they migrate to their breeding ponds across busy roads. Toads are particularly vulnerable and over 800,000 are carried to safety by volunteers each year in the UK and Switzerland.
It is not clear what has caused numbers of toads to drop so dramatically but likely causes are a combination of changes to farming practices, loss of ponds, an increase in urbanisation and more deaths on roads as traffic values have increased. Climate change could also be a factor as research has shown that milder winters are detrimental for hibernating toads.
In response to these findings Froglife launched a “Year of the Toad” in October 2017 to raise awareness of the issue and raise funds to carry out further research into the causes of these declines and deliver practical conservation projects on the ground to help protect important toad sites.
We invited people to help by:
- Telling others about the issue i.e. talking to friends and family and sharing posts on social media using #YearoftheToad
- Joining or setting up a local Toad Patrol
- Donating to our Tuppence a Toad appeal
- Recording toads on our Dragon Finder App
- Making your garden wildlife friendly to provide safe places for toads to feed and hibernate
- Creating a wildlife pond with a section of deeper water in the middle that toads can use to breed
- Carrying out some toad-themed activities and sharing your creations with Froglife. These instructions are written for teachers, but should still work for anyone looking for fun activities with children.
The Toad Bake Off:
Froglife held The Toad Bake Off competition to help raise awareness and funds to tackle toad decline in the UK. We invited bakers of all ages from across the country to share their toad-themed creations with us via social media. They could be anything from cakes, biscuits or even pies and bread. The winners were decided by a public vote.
First place was awarded to Erin and Steffen:
Second place went to Ysgol Trefnant Nursery:
And third went to Vicky Gaillard after a deciding vote had to be cast by our CEO, Kathy Wormald:
Why not try our recipe ideas and bake some toad biscuits or a loaf of toad bread?
Scottish Toads About Roads (STAR) project
As part of our Scottish Dragon Finder Trainee’s personal project we contacted all of the patrols in Scotland to find out how each of them were getting on and if they needed any help. With the information provided by Toad Patrol managers it was hoped that current patrols would continue to grow, helping gather valuable information about our native amphibians. Another key part of this project was to try and find out as much as possible about the breeding sites associated with each patrol. With this information Froglife was able to target key sites for toad conservation as part of future projects.
Walk for Wildlife
As part of Year of the Toad we aimed to teach school children about the hazards toads face when they are migrating to their breeding ponds in spring. We did this by developing an obstacle course for children to take part in. Each child completed 4 obstacles representing a different hazard, pollution, predation, car fatalities and disease. This gave us the opportunity to let the children know about the amazing amphibian and reptile species that can be found in Scotland.
MSP Species Champion for the Common Toad
Froglife are an active part of Scottish Environment Link’s Species Champion project.
To date, 64 MSPs have become Species Champions. To support our Year of the Toad campaign we looked to find an extra special MSP to represent common toads in Scotland and are delighted that Mary Fee MSP for West Scotland took up the challenge!
- Find out more about what Champions have done since the initiative launched in 2013.
To help promote our research findings and the Year of the Toad we gave Toad Talks to various groups, from the Cambridge Conservation Forum’s Annual Symposium to local school assemblies. Our aim was to get the message out to diverse audiences and engage more people with the plight of toads.
To mark the Year of the Toad we teamed up with Education Quizzes to create a special Toad quiz. This quiz was written by our Scottish Dragon Finder Trainee and enables you to test your species knowledge while raising awareness of the issues facing common toads. It was originally published in December 2016 just in time for Christmas Quizzes!
Charter for Trees, Woods and People
Woodlands are an important terrestrial habitat for common toads. In the Autumn the animals move away from their breeding ponds and towards their overwintering sites. Woodlands provide safe places for toads to shelter overwinter. Toadlets and adults spend the winter buried down in mud, under compost heaps or amongst dead wood. They do not hibernate as such and may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage.
To link in with the Year of the Toad campaign Froglife became an official partner of the Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
Led by the Woodland Trust, more than 50 organisations from across multiple sectors, are standing together to call for a Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
Through collecting stories about what trees and woods mean to people, we are building a picture of their value to everyone in the UK. These stories have been used to create a set of guiding principles, around which the charter will be written. The final Charter for Trees, Woods and People will influence policy and practice and celebrate the role that trees and woods play in our lives.
The new charter will launch on November 6th 2017, the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest.
Toad Art Competition
Huge thanks to everyone who entered our Toad Art Competition, the first activity of our Year of the Toad campaign. We received some beautiful drawings from people of all ages and are delighted to announce that the following people’s drawings are now featured in our new Toad Art Colouring Book, sales of which will help raise funds for toad conservation, alongside contributions from professional artists:
Harriet Vail (cover image, below), Lesley Lane, Cat Duerden, Danielle Bagnall, Nadia Ming, Marc Hendry, Emma Price, Tom Cox, Helen Firminger and Hannah Millgate.