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!


Cape Town’s secretive inhabitant and pilot conservation species – the Western Leopard Toad

Written by Guest Blogger: Mark Day

Dusk ascends to cover the suburb of Bergvliet under a blanket of darkness. It brings with it the chill of a Wintery August night in Cape Town, South Africa, as a nippy breeze sweeps across the small urban wetland of Die Oog (an Afrikaans word meaning “The Eye”).

This man-made depression was originally dug out some 284 years ago to provide water for livestock on the neighbouring farm of Dreyersdal. In more recent years, however, Die Oog has come to serve a much greater purpose, as a pivotal breeding site for one of Cape Town’s most threatened amphibians, the western leopard toad Ameitophrynus pantherinus.

IUCN listed Amietophrynus pantherinus in Noordhoek - Photo by Maria Wagener of Fishhoek

As little as six years ago it was thought that only several such breeding sites remained in existence, for a species which has suffered massive population declines as a consequence of numerous threats including urban expansion, habitat destruction and population decimation through road kills. Today, conservationists and scientists with the aid of concerned volunteers and the public have listed a total of 52 breeding sites within the Cape Town range of the species. Further eastwards, some 150 kilometres away from southern Cape Town, a largely unprotected population comprising seven breeding sites exists.

Unlike most frogs which remain at water courses throughout the year, toads live in what’s termed ‘foraging areas’ where they lay dormant by day and hunt by night—with an exception for August month and there about when they migrate to and from local aquatic environments to breed. Presently, the majority of these foraging and breeding areas fall under urban suburbia, guaranteeing a window of constant interaction between these toads and the unknowing dangers their human neighbours pose.

Despite current conservation action and volunteer efforts to protect the Cape Town populations, census data from the 2009 breeding season only generated a recorded 1125 live migrants and 258 dead. Great strides have been achieved in recent years through a consistent increase in awareness of the plight of the species and in the recruitment of volunteers. The fate of the species is however uncertain—unless the citizens residing in these areas value their endemic and endangered leopard toad, there will merely remain stories of its once enigmatic nature and quiet existence.

For further details on the species, join the group on Facebook, The Endangered Western Leopard Toad or visit the website, www.leopardtoad.co.za.

Mark Day
Coordinator: Awareness, Volunteer & Census Operations
Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee

Email: leopardtoad@gmail.com

Websites: www.leopardtoad.co.za /  www.toadnuts.co.za

Facebook: The Endangered Western Leopard Toad