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The 2008 Breeding Season

This year as in previous years, various conservation organizations, research groups and volunteers from all over Cape Town, came together to save the endangered Western Leopard Toad and by the end of September, a total of 847 toads were removed from roads, while 149 were recorded as killed by motorists.

A greater effort was made to spread the word of the endangered toads’ plight and generate awareness on the breeding season and the volunteer drive. The Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee or (WLT-CC) managed this process and coordinated the various City of Cape Town departments, with scientists from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Cape Nature analyzing data and ensuring that all of the facts disseminated were accurate. Many advertising mechanisms were utilized, including numerous articles in community and local newspapers, two radio interviews, three presentations, five websites and one school. A total of 7850 pamphlets were dropped in 13 different toad inhabited areas, such as Bergvliet, Noordhoek and Glen Cairn. 
Through these efforts, a list of over 100 volunteers was generated, indicating an apparent enthusiasm in the public to get involved and assist with the annual “toad off the road” operations.

Research work was undertaken by several individuals and organizations. This included SANBIs’ continuation of the DNA sampling program and their “Upload your Toad” photograph database.
Farrah Feldman, a masters student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and employee of the Nature Conservation Corporation is doing a three year project involving the tagging and tracking, as well as the uploading of toad images in partnership with SANBI. The study is being conducted in the Kirstenhof area and will be completed in 2010.
Lastly, Farha Ally, a nature conservation experiential learner from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology undertook a project to tag and track three leopard toads in the Kenilworth region to determine and confirm a new breeding site. 

The breeding season, like every year, had its surprises and this year was no exception!
The season started in Noordhoek on the 27th of July, with toads spotted on roads, beginning to migrate to their breeding sites. Activity was then documented in Fish Hoek and then days later in Kirstenhof. Gradually all the sites became active, with peak movement noted in the week of the 11th of August. Breeding tapered off thereafter, while almost all sites had quieted down by the 24th of August.
Late winter rains in September and early October led to reappearances and second breeding stints at sites in Lakeside, Bergvliet, and Rondevlei. The very latest 2008 breeding activity was documented and occurred in a Bergvliet residents’ fishpond on the 7th of October.

Throughout the breeding period, phone calls and emails were taken from concerned and interested members of the public, as awareness on the toads’ existence and plight was heightened. Through assistance from the public, new breeding sites have been discovered, increasing the number of known toad breeding sites into the mid-thirties. Further findings and observations of the breeding season include the incidence of calls during daylight hours at numerous breeding sites; the movement of perhaps higher volumes of toads in early morning hours and a second large scale breeding episode in Kirstenhof.

Overall, the 2008 breeding season was a huge success thanks to all the organizations and public who assisted. It is largely felt that the public now has a better understanding and knowledge of the Western Leopard Toad and that through a combined effort by the people of Cape Town, we can effectively prevent the extinction and reduce the current threatened category of this priceless creature.   
Mark Day, coordinator of volunteer and census work for the WLT-CC can be contacted for any queries or information regarding the Western Leopard Toad.
If you are willing to volunteer in future please contact Mark Day on: 082 516 3602 or email him at volfire@sanparks.org.

WESTERN CAPE LEOPARD TOADLETS READY TO RUN THE GAUNTLET

In August of this year, conservation personnel from the City of Cape Town, the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the Nature Conservation Corporation set out, as part of a broader campaign, to assist and save the endangered Western Leopard Toads on their annual migration to breed at various water bodies.

Joined by volunteers from all over Cape Town, the toad saving groups set out to prevent the death of as many migrating toads as possible.  This is part of a greater effort to prevent the extinction of the species.  The aim is to reverse the toads’ endangered status by achieving an increase in survival rate, especially of individuals reaching maturity.

It is now almost four months later, and the toadlets, the stock of this year’s breeding season are about to emerge any day now. Metamorphosised, the toadlets have completed their full cycle of growth and are now ready to embark on the first, most deadly journey of their lives.  Although only the size of a one cent coin, the toadlets disperse explosively, uncertain on which direction they are headed or how far their journey will be. They are searching for foraging grounds, a place to live, with shelter and food, for the rest of their lives. 

A city is decidedly one of the most difficult places to survive as an amphibian, which is why the toadlets need your help to make the journey and ultimately survive!

Please consider the following to save the toadlets and attract them to your garden:

  • Drive with caution when passing leopard toad breeding sites.
  • Avoid mowing your lawn for December and January. If this is not possible, mow under full sun after a period of no rain, as toadlets rely on grass and shrubs to escape the predatory birds and heat.
  • Install a TOADSAVER in your pool – call Mark Day for information on 082 5163602.
  • Cover your drains with old carpet, mesh or a concrete slab – place a small piece of polystyrene inside your drains and rescue toads daily.
  • Check your pool and drain pipes every morning and remove any toads – especially after rain!
  • Drive slowly during rain when passing Leopard Toad breeding sites. If you see a toadlet in the road, move it gently to the side of the road it is facing.
  • Plant a vegetable patch and/or start a compost heap in your garden. This will attract insects, which the toads will feed on.
  • Toadlets can dehydrate and die within 15 minutes when exposed to open sunlight. Place water catchments around your garden to allow toads areas to hydrate in the heat of the summer sun.
  • Avoid using snail bait or pesticides - these toads offer this service free of charge!
  • If you have any photos of toads, send them to be uploaded on the SANBI website Upload your Toad and contribute to citizen science!

A healthy Western Leopard Toad population is an indication of a healthy urban environment, and many of the actions we take to conserve this species will help other wildlife survive our urban environment.

Many thanks to all who continue to look out for our priceless Western Leopard Toad. Every effort, no matter how small, contributes to the specie’s survival. If you have any queries on toad-related issues, please contact Mark Day on the hotline number 082 516 3602 or email Mark Day at volfire@sanparks.org

 

   
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All information has been compiled by members of the WLTCC