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Hundreds of toads rescued on Chisholm Trail in Cambridge



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Hundreds of toads have had to be rescued from the Chisholm Trail tunnel as they were getting squashed by cyclists.

The toad mating season runs from February to April and the new cycle route has cut directly across their traditional migration path from the Leper Chapel to Barnwell Lake in Cambridge.

Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins
Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins

Conservationist Suzanne Hawkins, who volunteers with Toad Patrol for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough local Amphibian and Reptile Group, was alerted to the problem after friends spotted dozens of dead toads in the tunnel, that had been run over by bikes. When she arrived at the site she was appalled.

She said: “People whizz through that tunnel on their bikes and they don’t seem to see the toads, although it is well lit.

“When the Chisholm Trail was built they obviously moved the amphibians from where they were going to dig and then put up an anti-amphibian barrier around the lake to stop them getting back into the danger zone.

“But now it is migration time and this is their ancient route, which they are still following. They used to travel along the brook under Newmarket Road. Now they are coming from the Leper Chapel and getting squashed on the road by cars or going through the Chisholm Trail tunnel and getting run over by bikes.

“The ones who made it across were then piling up at the amphibian barrier around the lake because they couldn’t get it. When we arrived it looked like a plague.”

Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins
Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins

Suzanne and other volunteers have spent every night for the last couple of weeks rescuing the lost toads and helping them past the barrier so they can reach their breeding grounds.

“We’ve saved more than 200,” she said.

“Every night we have to go out and check there aren't any more sort of just queuing up to get over. It was chaos to start with but it is starting to calm down now. Of course soon they will want to travel back the way they came. I think building the Chisholm Trail has just upset their whole route so that they just don't know what they're doing. They have been travelling this way for centuries, poor creatures.”

Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins
Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins

The Greater Cambridge Partnership is responsible for the construction of the Chisholm Trail. Their spokesperson said: “All our projects have a full ecological survey before any work is carried out and this was done ahead of construction of the Chisholm Trail. We continuously work with ecologists throughout our work and, following advice, we created a temporary corridor through the fencing to enable toads to migrate to Barnwell Lake.”

Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins
Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins

However, Suzanne has been receiving help from Cambridge City Council conservation officers and Cllr Naomi Bennett (Green, Abbey). New signs by local children have been put up to alert cyclists and let them know they should slow down for the toads.

Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins
Toad patrol Picture: Suzanne Hawkins

Cllr Bennett said: “I spoke with the city council’s environment officer Guy Belcher who was really helpful and was straight onto the builder to ensure that they raised the fence so the toads could get into the pond. But Suzanne tells me there is going to be a problem every year so ideally we need a bridge constructed over the trail for the toads to get to the ponds safely.”



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