Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bristol Zoo appeals for volunteers to hop to it

Photo credit: Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group

Volunteers are being sought to help save hundreds of toads and other amphibians from being killed as they make their perilous annual breeding migration.

Every year toads, frogs and newts migrate from their winter resting sites to ponds to breed. Toads in particular are very fussy about where they breed and like to return to their ancestral ponds; this often means crossing busy roads.

Some roads have been closed for the breeding season, allowing the animals to cross safely. But many roads still remain open and busy, and so toad patrols have been set up at the busiest toad crossing points.

Bristol Zoo’s partner organisation, the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation (BCSF), is now calling on people to help them collect migrating toads and move them to safe breeding sites.

Jen Nightingale, the UK Conservation Officer for the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, said: “Volunteers are needed straight away, as toads will start to migrate when the weather reaches over five degrees, which is any time now, and the migration period can last up to three weeks.“

She added: Toads and other amphibians set out on their journeys after dusk, preferring dark, wet and warm conditions, so we need volunteers between 6pm-10pm to help collect up hundreds of toads, frogs and newts and save them from being run over.”

One of the local breeding sites is near the Pill cycle path. The amphibians cross the cycle path that leads under the railway track up to Avonmouth Bridge and many fall into the drains before they can get to their breeding site.

Jen said: “Even if you can only spare one evening, it will help save amphibian lives. All you need is a bucket, a torch and high visibility jacket.”

Toads can often travel further than 1km during their migration back to their spawning ground. Rather than using rough hedgerow or grassy land, toads will often choose the easier bare ground to travel along, making roads the obvious easy travel route for them.

Following on from the wintery weather in November and December, the recent thaw has revealed large numbers of dead amphibians and fish in ponds. As a result, an organisation called Pond Conservation has put cold weather advice on its web-site, and is conducting a survey, called the Great Pond Thaw, to better understand the phenomenon. http://www.pondconservation.org.uk/bigponddip/bigpondthawformonline

To find out more about volunteering for toad patrols, contact Jen Nightingale or Maddy Rees on 0117 974 7376, or 07805 473 699 or email jnightingale@bristolzoo.org.uk  or mrees@bristolzoo.org.uk .

For more information about Bristol Zoo Gardens visit the website at http://www.bristolzoo.org.uk/ or phone 0117 974 7300.

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