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Call for volunteers to help thousands of toads cross busy French road

The toads risk their lives every year by attempting to cross so as to reach their spring mating ground

A European toad (bufo bufo) on a forest road

Volunteers help thousands of toads and other amphibians to cross the dangerous departmental road every year, ensuring the good functioning of the local environment Pic: Arkadiusz Kolos / Shutterstock

A town in the Hautes-Alpes is appealing for volunteers to help thousands of toads cross a major departmental road safely.

The annual initiative by bird welfare group la Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) was launched to coincide with the toads’ migration period between February and March.

Frogs, newts, and salamanders also make the journey away from forest areas where they spend the winter to avoid the worst of the cold.

Why did the toad cross the road?

As the joke goes, they cross “to get to the other side”; namely the wetter, warmer areas in which they were born. It is here that they will reproduce as spring arrives.

Volunteers are enlisted to help install nets along the road in Gap in Hautes-Alpes (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). These fence the animals off from the dangerous road and instead funnel them towards volunteers’ buckets. Other similar initiatives exist in other areas of France.

The buckets are then taken manually to drop the toads off on the other side, away from the traffic.

The campaign lasts two-to-three weeks and requires many volunteers as the LPO does not have the staff capacity to do it alone.

1,300 saved

In Gap, the style of the road means that humans must help along a 2km stretch, with around 1,300 animals saved on average each year. 

Without the help, many would risk being hit and killed while crossing. This would wreak havoc on the local ecosystem, as the toads are both predator and prey, and are a key part of the food chain and vital for the local environment.

Each year, the LPO submits a request to local authorities to reduce the road’s speed limit during the operation. It also seeks to go into schools to raise awareness of the campaign among young people.

Over the past few years, more than 500 volunteers have helped with the campaign each year, including around 20 stationed in Gap.

Anyone wishing to help can contact the local coordinator, Eliane Dupland, via the details on the LPO website here.

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