Why did the toad cross the road?  Or more to the point: “How did the toad cross the road and not get run over in the process??” That’s the question we at Toad NUTS (Noordhoek’s Unpaid Toad Savers) have been scratching our heads over since 2007 when our volunteers first started saving western leopard toads from becoming road kill.

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According to the IUCN List of Species, Amietophrynus Pantherinus is listed as “endangered in the wild” and a dedicated group of volunteers has been working tirelessly for the past 8 breeding seasons to save this toad from extinction.

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This toad is endemic to the coastline of the Western Cape and is still found in significant numbers in areas such as Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Kirstenhof  and Constantia. This fist-sized amphibian makes an annual winter migration to lowland breeding ponds, all of which are situated on private lands.

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So to return to our original question: “How do toads cross the roads successfully?” The sad answer is that many toads are crushed by unsuspecting drivers. 

Despite nightly patrols by trained volunteers during the annual breeding migrations, the road kill statistics are not encouraging:

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Obviously road patrols are only partially successful in preventing road kill – another solution needs to be found which will allow toads to access their breeding ponds in a safe way.

Based on international research, Toad NUTS, with the support of the Table Mountain Fund (WWF) will investigate the possibility of modifying existing storm water drains to allow toads to pass under roads,  thereby avoiding all traffic while having unimpeded access to their ponds. 

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The Toad ROMP (Road Mitigation Project) testing phase has already begun with the piloting of a temporary barrier and pitfall trap system during the toad migrations of 2013 and 2014. The success of this has led to the approval of R60 000 funding over the next 2 years by the Table Mountain Fund.

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The final goal of this project is to identify:

  1. If toads would use modified storm-water drains to cross under busy roads. If this is not a viable option, then a toad-specific tunnel will be designed based on international examples.
  2. How best to ‘lead’ toads into the tunnels
  3. How to prevent toads crossing elsewhere along the stretch of road.  Here the focus would be on toad-kerbs.

A community-led process will kick off early in 2015 for the Noordhoek area in which the needs of all stakeholders who utilise the identified stretch of road, will be taken into account. The hope is that a kerb system can be designed which would make the verges safer for pedestrians, cyclists and toads alike.

Alison Faraday, 30 October 2014