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.