Saving Frogs (and a Village) in Ireland

We recently received an e-mail from Laurence Stafford, who lives in a small village called Parteen in County Clare, Ireland. A highway is being proposed that will cut through his village, destroying the habitat of the Irish Common Frog (Rana temporaria).

Photo courtesy www.doeni.gov.uk

Laurence’s e-mail highlights the problem of habitat destruction. What does it matter that frogs are losing their habitat in one small area of Ireland? Unfortunately this type of habitat loss is occurring across the globe: it is one of the reasons for the rapid worldwide amphibian decline. Of course, having a highway cut through a village will have enormous human costs as well.

The story is as follows: there is a joint venture between Limerick County Council and Clare County Council underway to build a highway costing over 352 million euros that will connect Galway to the University of Limerick. The highway will cut through Parteen village.

The Environmental Group of Parteen has warned the emerging preferred route crosses rural farmland, which is home to a protected species, Rana Temporaria. Although this species is fairly plentiful in Ireland, it is protected under an EU directive because of its declining numbers in Europe. The directive aims to protect some 220 habitats and lists approximately 1,000 species, including the frog.

This road will also divide a peaceful and tranquil village in two; the proposed volume of traffic is estimated at 20,000 to 30,000 cars, which calculates at 210,000 a month and 2,520,000 a year passing through a small community.

As reported in the Clare Champion, the group’s concerns are shared by Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald, who is disappointed with the planning of the new road, which he claims will divide settled communities and destroy their living environment: “Even people who have no connections with the area are asking why areas that have been ideal for living in are now to virtually have their heart cut out.”

We hope that the local county councils will rethink this route, both to preserve the frogs’ habitat – so important in this time of declining amphibian populations worldwide – but also to preserve the integrity of the village of Parteen.

Here is more information. Ecoparteen’s Twitter feed is here. Please lend your support!


Burned Forests Threaten the Frogs of Madagascar – Guest Post, Franco Andreone

We are so pleased that Franco Andreone, Associate Curator of Zoology, Responsible for Herpetological and Ichthyological Collections, Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali, Torino, Italy, offered to write a guest post for Frogs Are Green about his recent visit to Madagascar and what he encountered there—the possible extinction of  frogs species due to the destruction of its forests.


In October, I visited the Ankaratra, a massif next to Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, for a quick trip in an attempt to see two of the most threatened (maybe “the most threatened”) frog species of Madagascar: Boophis williamsii and Mantidactylus pauliani.

They are both CR species and live in an area that is not yet protected and has been heavily altered. For some time, on behalf of the Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG), we have advocated the need for protecting this area. To this end, a project has been set up with the help of Conservation International and the collaboration of many colleagues, with the aim of securing the area, which is also very important because it is a draining basin for potable water for the city of Ambatolampy. Through the ASG it was also possible to get a MacArthur grant that will be helpful for any further action.

Some people, notably from the Langaha Association and Madagasikara Voakajy, have begun work on the species, along with other herp species (i.e. Furcifer campani); they have collected data on both B. williamsii and M. pauliani. The two species appear VERY localised, with no more than three spots where they have been found. M. pauliani appeared a little bit more common, but we observed less than ten B. williamsii individuals.

I was already concerned about the threats to these species and their habitat. The bad news is that during the rapid survey we did (a few hours visit), we noticed that almost ALL the exotic forest was burned. This forest, composed mainly of pines, assured a certain naturalness to the area, and prevented erosion. Now, following the voluntary burning events of last July, almost all the forest has been “transformed” into charcoal. This will have serious and terrible consequences for the human populations, especially for the availability of drinking water. Most likely, during the next rainy season there will be accelerated erosion and the water will become heavily polluted. Clearly the amphibian populations will be tragically affected as well. Although one of the sites is still within a small parcel of “natural” forest, the burned trees are all around, and at the other sites the fire event has destroyed the small residual (ferns, grass) vegetation that likely assured the survival of the species.

During the visit we found some B. williamsii, but we really wonder what the effect of the next rains will be. The tadpoles need clear and clean water, and if the water is polluted by erosion, they will most likely die.

Furthermore, there really is a risk that the species will be driven to extinction within a short time.

Boophis williamsii courtesy of Franco Andreone

Boophis williamsii tadpole courtesy of Franco Andreone

Habitat Ankaratra courtesy of Franco Andreone

Mantidactylus pauliani courtesy of Franco Andreone

For more information, please visit my website:  www.francoandreone.it


Create a backyard frog pond

Frogs lead double lives. They begin their lives as fish-like tadpoles, breathing with gills as they swim underwater, then metamorphose into their adult form, hopping onto land and breathing with lungs. As adult frogs, they have strong ties to water and most need to remain near water to keep their bodies moist.

So what does this have to do with you? In the past twenty years, habitat loss has been one of the main reasons for the decline in frog populations in the US. The housing boom, in particular, destroyed large areas of natural habitat for wildlife.

It is possible to help out your neighborhood amphibians by creating a frog pond in your backyard. As I am not particularly handy with home projects, I searched the web trying to find an explanation of how to do this that didn’t seem impossible. The best directions I found were on the Loudoun (VA) Wildlife Conservancy site. Although I’m not planning to dig a frog pond in my city backyard, I could imagine following these directions and making this type of pond if I had a large backyard in a more rural area.

Some key points:

  • Be patient. If you build it, the frogs will come…ie, don’t stock the pond with pet store frogs or remove frogs from the wild and relocate them to your pond–that could make matters worse. Non-native species can wreak havoc on local ecosystems. Even native frogs could carry diseases that could cause death in local wild frogs. Just create a good environment for frogs and eventually they might appear.
  • The pond should have sloped sides so that the froglets can emerge from the pond when they are are ready.
  • Plant native plants and include lily pads etc (there are lots of water gardening catalogs).
  • Obviously if you have young children in the area, keep the pond fenced off to prevent accidents.
  • Don’t stock the pond with fish–they’ll eat the tadpoles.
Photo by Laura Regnier (courtesy of savethefrogs.com)

Photo by Laura Regnier (courtesy of www.savethefrogs.com)