Take better care of the frogs

Wild animal charity Aspas explains how to improve their odds of survival

24 February 2011

From next month, amphibians will be moving to their breeding grounds: many will not survive the journey. Wild animal charity Aspas explains how to improve their odds of survival

Many people are unfamiliar with the different amphibian species present in our country, and yet they play an important role in nature. As both prey and predators, they are an essential link in the chain of our wild fauna.

One in five amphibian species is at risk of extinction in mainland France because of factors such as the destruction of or changes to their habitats and pollution of the atmosphere, the ground and water.

One of the biggest causes of death of amphibians is road traffic. From next month, species such as frogs, toads and newts will be leaving their winter quarters and heading for bodies of water where they can reproduce.

During these migrations, which take place when the weather is mild and wet, the animals are confronted with multiple obstacles such as roads and paths. Hundreds of these protected and threatened animals get crushed.

So as to fight effectively against the causes of decline, here are some solutions and some facilities you can put in place to save them.

Dig a pond

Creating a pond near to a wetland area where amphibians may potentially be found offers them a possible reproduction site, essential to the survival of species.

- Plot out the area of the pond (preferably in a flat area)

- Dig the hole to a depth of up to 70-80cm, with several different levels. It wants to be dug deep enough to avoid it drying out completely in summer or freezing completely in winter.

- Dig a trench around the hole, 20-40cm deep

- Cover the earth with a thin layer of sand

- Spread out geotextile (permeable fabric, available in garden centres) in the bottom. This will stop vegetation from piercing the pond liner

- Place pond liner in the hole, overflowing into the trench

- Place some flat stones on the liner, starting in the deepest area and ending with the edges

- Bury the edges of the liner that overflow into the trench

- Put some earth in the bottom of the pond and on top of the stones.

- Plant some aquatic plants

- Fill gently with water

Build a crapauduc

The ideal is to create a passage that whether it be a road or wall or railway etc. In general this means digging a tunnel.

The best thing to do is to alert your local council if there is an area where amphibians are regularly victims of road death.

Make a toad shelter

You can quickly and easily make a shelter for toads in your garden. This will benefit your garden as well as the animals: 90 per cent of their diet consists of insects that are harmful to crops.

- Find an old clay flower pot about 20cm diameter.

- Create an entrance by cutting out a semi-circle from one side of the pot, starting at the edge. Drill holes to make the shape and then knock it out gently with a hammer.

- Place the pot upside down in a shady place near to a water source and cover the top with a small plank or a piece of tarpaulin to make it waterproof.

A barrier trap

This is a temporary arrangement that enables you to save amphibians from being crushed when they are migrating.

Collecting the trapped animals requires volunteers to go out with buckets each morning for several weeks.

They need to be then placed on the other side of the road. or at their reproduction site if they are likely to face other obstacles.

Technical details on creating a barrier trap can be found (in French) at http://hyla63.free.fr/

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