Guest post: Saving Toads in the Czech Republic

We were so excited to receive this guest post and photography from Jan Knizek in the Czech Republic. Please read about the efforts of Krásná žába, o.s. [Beautiful Frog Association] to help preserve the breeding area of the European Green Toad.

European Green Toad portrait


Krásná žába, o.s. [Beautiful Frog Association] is a non-profit organisation that was founded with the aim to save one of few rare areas in Prague, Czech Republic, where European Green Toads can still breed.

2 month old baby toad


In 2010, we had discovered a dwindling but still surviving population of the toads at a future building site, in an area where the toads once proliferated. However, due to development projects like the one we are currently fighting to stop, their population has been continually displaced.

Discovering a small surviving population of these admirable animals, which had practically disappeared from here years ago, was a great and joyful surprise, and we are determined to do everything we can to save their last remaining breeding ground in the area, which is vital to the survival of the animals.

Stopping a development project involves a lot of effort. We need to convince local authorities that giving preference to the environment over a developer’s interest is vital in this case, last but not least because the European Green Toad is on the IUCN red list of endangered species and protected within the EU. Bringing about the destruction of the local population of toads by wrecking its breeding ground would be a crime.

amplexus green toad


We have therefore filed an application to have the area listed as a place of significant environmental interest and supplied authorities with plenty of photos and documents to prove that the green toad population is indigenous (i.e. it has not been attracted to the area only after the building site had been set up), and that the development project is in breach of the law and needs to be stopped.

We are also in close cooperation with the Czech TV Channel (Česká televize) who have made a documentary on the issue and aired it on the national TV Channel 1.

We have also found support amongst local people who took part in a charity musical event we organised to help us fund our activities, since many of them do know the area very well and are interested in its preservation for a whole range of reasons, last but not least the toads.

Organisations supporting our activities include the Czech Union for Nature Conservation (ČSOP) who have also provided a little financial contribution to our association.

Once we achieve an official recognition of the site as a natural reserve, we are planning on maintaining it in a condition that would be ideal for breeding of the local European Green Toads who come here every spring to lay eggs in seasonal pools of rain water. Preventing access of traffic and any adverse intervention into the toad’s natural habitat is vital. Another important thing is further education of local people who absolutely should be aware of how precious an area they live in.

So far we’ve been addressed by a number of organisations who were curious to know more about what we do, including an environmentally-focused youth club interested in a lecture on this local issue.

We have encountered displeasure on the part of some local authorities and developers, but we have also encountered a lot of interest and support amongst local people who would feel badly betrayed if the local government preferred financial interests (i.e. the developers’) over public welfare, an indispensable part of which is protection of the environment and conservation of nature.

croaking male green toad


At the beginning, there was an unsightly building site and a development project in progress. Local people were unaware of any problem and authorities were reluctant to listen.

At the moment, there is still an unsightly building site, but a part of the development project has been suspended and another part of it reduced so that the toad’s breeding ground we are most concerned about would not be affected. Many locals know about the European Green Toad now, have educated themselves about the development project, and are in support of our activities. Authorities have started communicating with us and have actually shown the first spark of interest in supporting our cause.

In the future, we hope there will be a beautiful green area where local people can come on a warm spring evening to sit and listen to the melodic croak of this exceptionally beautiful toad, smell the flowers and trees, and enjoy a small oasis of nature in the middle of a bustling city – that is our mission.

You can find more information about the European Green Toad and our activities at our website.

And if you have any questions, you are of course welcome to contact us any time.

tadpole microterritories green toad

flighting male green toads


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


When Irish Toads Are Smiling

Recently I read on the Friends of the Irish Environment website about a small scale project that’s made a big difference for the endangered Natterjack toad, the only toad species native to Ireland. Only about 8,000 Natterjack toads remain in isolated pockets on Ireland’s Dingle peninsula.

One of the main problems for the Natterjack Toad is habitat loss. With a reduction in aquatic ecosystems—ponds, vernal pools, bogs—due to development,  populations of toads have become isolated from each other, and eventually their numbers will continue to dwindle.

To help the toads colonize new habitats, the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service launched a project called Toad in the Hole. They pay farmers to dig and maintain ponds on their land. So far the program has been a success. The farmers are motivated, not just by the money—the ponds take quite a bit of work to maintain. Rather they are motivated because they want to help conserve the species.

As Michael Foley, a landowner from Rossbeigh, says, “I got involved purely to conserve the species. The people of Kerry are very proud of the toads. They are part of the country’s culture.” His pond is now teeming with toadlets and tadpoles.

This project makes so much sense to me, and yet it didn’t cost a huge amount of money. Each farmer is paid the US equivalent of about $1000 a year to maintain the pond. I think similar projects could be implemented in many areas where amphibians’ natural habitat has been destroyed.

Sometimes the problems facing amphibians seem insurmountable, but the solutions don’t necessarily have to be complicated.

A young, not fully grown Natterjack Toad. Photo by Piet Spaans.

A young, not fully grown, Natterjack Toad. Photo by Piet Spaans.