How did the toad cross the A134? With the help of the UK’s number one toad patrollers...
PUBLISHED: 16:06 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:06 12 March 2014
A crack team of toad wranglers have leapfrogged their way to the top of a national league table after rescuing more than 9,000 of the warty wonders.
The Toad Watch Patrollers have been keeping a close eye on the A134 near Thetford to help stranded toads cross the road and take top spot on the Froglife Charity league table of rescues from registered toad crossings in the UK.
With the toad as a priority species for conservation in the UK, Norfolk County Council has designated a stretch of the road as a “Roadside Nature Reserve”, with extra hibernating habitat being constructed.
When toads become snared in a fenced off section - designed to keep them safe until help arrives - the toad patrol step in to deliver them safely to the other side of the road.
The patrollers also keep a vigilant eye on crossings in Oxborough and Cockley Cley.
Ed Stocker, Norfolk County Council ecologist, said: “The Toad Watch Patrollers in Cranwich, Oxborough and Cockley Cley have been doing an incredible job for several years now, and have undoubtedly helped maintain a healthy population of toads in this area of Breckland.
“The way in which the volunteers have organised themselves and the project can be held up as a model to any other groups wishing to do the same.”
So far this spring the volunteers at the site have already saved 1,500 toads from the tread of speeding car tyres as they make their long journey back through Thetford Forest.
The toad (Bufo bufo) is a priority species for conservation in the UK as it has experienced a serious decline among many populations across areas of South East and Central England in recent decades.
Toads are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and also the Natural Environment & Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 making it a requirement of public bodies to consider toads along with all biodiversity when performing any of their functions.
The temporary fencing work has been carried out as the beginning of a project to find a more permanent solution to helping the toads across the road, such as a tunnel or underpass to connect the toads with their spawning ground.
The toads at Cranwich spend winter hibernating in Thetford Forest (Special Area of Conservation) before emerging in spring to make the long journey back to the restored gravel pits where they hatched.
As nocturnal amphibians, they can travel up to 2km during their spring migration across land to reach their preferred mating and spawning ponds. This brings them into contact with many obstacles such as railways, roads, housing and open fields putting them at regular risk from human activity.
Parishes and Community Groups wanting to create a toad crossing or improve habitat on their land for amphibians can contact Ed Stocker for advice or visit www.froglife.org for more details about setting up a toad patrol.
Any sightings of toads in gardens or the countryside can be reported to the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service via their website www.nbis.org.uk which will help build a more accurate picture of where important toad populations are in the county.