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Helping to save the lives of Cambridge’s threatened population of toads




A wildlife group is doing its best to make life less hazardous for the county’s toads, including installing special ladders.

Mark Goodman on Stanley Road where the toad signs have been erected. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Goodman on Stanley Road where the toad signs have been erected. Picture: Keith Heppell

Thanks to the work carried out by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) – a grass roots voluntary conservation organisation with about 35 active members that promotes the conservation of reptiles and amphibians – toad safety is on the increase, thanks to a number of thoughtful and creative initiatives.

CPARG routinely undertakes amphibian and reptile surveys, organises talks, attends appropriate events and offers free advice. Their toad patrols are just one of the many ways the organisation is helping to conserve Cambridgeshire’s amphibians and promote the involvement of volunteers.

Another measure involves the new toad signs that have been installed along Stanley Road – the location of one of Cambridge’s key common toad (Bufo bufo) populations and close to a nearby breeding pond.

Mark Goodman by the pond just off Stanley Road, one of the areas monitored for toads. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Goodman by the pond just off Stanley Road, one of the areas monitored for toads. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sadly, common toads have declined in population by almost 70 per cent across the UK in the past 30 years, with one of the most affected areas being East Anglia.

The city centre holds various perils for toads and one of these is cars. Now that the signs are in place, CPARG hopes that the toad mortality rate decreases.

The area is monitored by members of CPARG and the local community to ensure that toads reach their breeding pond successfully without finding themselves under the wheels of a passing vehicle.

Toad patrollers, such as Steven Allain and Mark Goodman from the CPARG – Steven is the group’s chairman, Mark is its toads on roads officer – go out on evenings when most of us would be indoors keeping dry to rescue the toads from the perils of the roads.

One such site they patrol is the area around Stanley Road and Oyster Row as the toads there breed in a pond situated in the gardens of Regatta Court and often travel across Stourbridge Common and the surrounding area to return en masse to the pond in which they were born.

Mark Goodman by the pond just off Stanley Road, one of the areas monitored for toads. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Goodman by the pond just off Stanley Road, one of the areas monitored for toads. Picture: Keith Heppell

Steven said: “Without the help from volunteers there is no way we would be able to achieve what we do. CPARG’s foundations are laid on voluntary work and so we are grateful for everybody’s input over the past few years.”

CPARG has had an active role in monitoring and patrolling the Oyster Row area since 2015 after concerns were raised by residents.

Patrols such as the ones carried out by CPARG are important to the toad population, but are not enough to halt the declines. The toad warning signage in the area will help as will the custom-made toad ladders which are placed in drains to prevent the toads from getting stuck and drowning.

Unfortunately, the ladders are not cheap but are necessary as the gully pots act as pitfall traps where toads, newts and other wildlife drown.

With co-operation with Cambridgeshire County Council’s highways team, CPARG has been granted permission to trial the ladders in this area. If successful, they will be hoping to use them on other sites.

Mark Goodman checks one of the drain gullys and prepares a toad ladder. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Goodman checks one of the drain gullys and prepares a toad ladder. Picture: Keith Heppell

Steven, who is also a council member of the British Herpetological Society, told the Cambridge Independent: “Unfortunately, roads are one of the biggest causes of decline in toad populations – they’re falling in gully pots or being hit by cars – so we try to mitigate that as best as possible.

“In the area, there are various teams of volunteers from CPARG as well as the local residents, who work in tandem to try to save as many toads as possible, and we hope that through doing this the population will persist”

Steven added: “Toads are seriously in trouble and we’re trying to do everything we can to prevent further declines and even try to reverse some, if we can.”

Steven, who says that CPARG has also been involved in the creation of a new pond and wetland area on Stourbridge Common, explains that the toad ladders were designed by British Herpetological Society.

“There have been numerous attempts over the past 10 to 15 years to produce a ladder for toads and this one is by far the best,” he said, adding: “We have permission through the city council and also the county council to go ahead and put those ladders in and monitor the toads.”

There is also a Toads Rescue 2020 WhatsApp group, which you can join by texting Suzanne Little on 07957 179993.

Visit groups.arguk.org/CPARG to volunteer.

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Toad ladders installed in Cambridge to save amphibians from death traps



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