Toad ladders installed in Cambridge to save amphibians from death traps

PUBLISHED: 12:16 05 May 2017

Toads can get caught in gully pots

Toads can get caught in gully pots

Vitalii Hulai

Custom-made ‘toad ladders’ have been installed in an area of Cambridge to help the amphibian population escape from potential death-traps.

Toad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile GroupToad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) fitted the devices into gully pots along Oyster Row and Garlic Row with the co-operation of Cambridgeshire County Council and local residents. The area was chosen because it is a known toad migration route.

CPARG chairman Steve Allain told the Cambridge Independent: “The ladders are designed to enable toads and other animals that get stuck in gully pots to escape.

“Unfortunately gully pots act as a pitfall trap and unsuspecting wildlife can get trapped within them where they often drown or die of starvation.”

CPARG thanked the Biodiversity Partnership for providing the funding needed to purchase the ladders, which were designed by the British Herpetological Society and have been tested in Angus, Scotland, where they were shown to reduce the deaths of toads in gully pots by up to 90 per cent.

Toad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile GroupToad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group

Since then other organisations have slowly been implementing them across the country – although this is the first instance that the ladders have been used in Cambridgeshire.

The ladders are made of a stainless steel backbone to which Enkamat is attached, providing a surface toads can use to climb back to the surface.

The devices have no significant impact on the ability of a gully to drain water.

The work in Oyster Row and Garlic Row is a trial that, if successful, CPARG aims to extend to other sites across the county.

Toad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile GroupToad ladder being installed by Cambridge & Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group

CPARG’s ‘toads on roads officer’ Mark Goodman said he hoped the ladders would mitigate the impact of toad migrations.

“In the area we are trialling the ladders, thousands of toads migrate every year to breed.

“Sometimes they stray into the roads and either get hit by cars or fall into gully pots. We’re actively involved in patrolling the roads to reduce deaths but we can’t be there all the time, so we hope the ladders will help more toads reach their breeding pond safely.”

Toads migrate in spring to reach their breeding ponds but there is also a summer migration, during which newly metamorphosed juveniles disperse from their natal ponds and join the adults in finding somewhere to hibernate through the winter.

Over the next few years, CPARG will be involved with monitoring the ladders to ensure they are still in a functional order and working to prevent the loss of biodiversity within urban Cambridge.

CPARG is interested to hear from residents who would like toad ladders installed in gully pots near them.

To report the presence of toads or other amphibians and reptiles email candparg@gmail.com.

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