Why Did the Toad Cross the Road? – Latest Homes – 29th January 2008

This is not another rubbish cracker joke left over from Christmas (and this year weren’t they particularly poor?) but a very serious question indeed.

Our local toads will soon be starting to migrate – returning to the same ponds where they were themselves spawned; and often having to travel up to half a mile across fields and busy roads to reach their destinations – and then once they’ve got there trying to find the energy to breed!

But did you know that each year it is estimated that this perilous journey claims an incredible 25% of toad populations – squashed crossing our busy roads and ‘peaceful’ country lanes.
Common toads are native to this country and sadly a declining species. An increasing number of toad habitats have roads right through their migration routes and as natural habitats decrease, it’s important to restrict these tragic road casualties.

The Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group (SARG) was set up in 1986 to raise the profile of both reptile and amphibian species native to Sussex, and also to increase our understanding of them.

As well as protecting important sites, and educating and informing the public, SARG is also responsible for co-ordinating toad crossing patrols and liaising with local authorities and landowners on all matters of reptile and amphibian conservation.

Members of SARG will patrol areas with flashlights and buckets; and helping toads across the roads by gently picking them up, putting them in the buckets and releasing them on the other side of the road. On some nights hundreds of toads can be found crossing the road and it’s quite a sight seeing them move en masse.

Despite all the hard work from the SARG volunteers, male toads really don’t make it easy for themselves, as they like to be in the open and display to the females to attract them – often slap-bang in the middle of our country lanes.

But toad patrols don’t just rescue flirty males and females; they are also important for collecting data that helps to asses the status of toad populations both locally and more generally. SARG are always looking for keen and able volunteers to join them with their toad patrol work.

Although the work is sometimes cold and wet, it’s really rewarding to see the massively positive conservation efforts you can make. This year SARG are looking for volunteers in Lewes, Uckfield and Newhaven.

So if you are fit and able and would like to do your bit to help the reptiles and amphibians of Sussex, or know about an existing toad crossing we may not be aware about please contact Sussex Wildlife Trust on 01273 497523 for more information.

To learn more about SARG visit www.uksafari.com/sarg

Thanks to Sussex Wildlife Trust for helping me compile this column.

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