Beware ‘explosive’ toads

John Green, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa

The mission of Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA) is to promote “People Caring for the Earth”.

Right now, we can do this right on our doorstep in the Constantiaberg Valley with all its wetlands where the endangered western leopard toads breed at this time of the year.

We are told that their breeding movements are “explosive” and “unpredictable”. Never before has this been more true than this year, and never before have we had to be more careful when driving in the early evening than right now: they are exploding!

A small contribution, which I am able to make, is to “blow the whistle” and warn the dedicated group of volunteers who man the roads to save the toads at this time when the males move to the wetlands and start “snoring” to attract the ladies.

At the end of July, they started their cacophony in the dam outside my bedside window.

Hanniki Pieterse, of the Toadnuts, responded the next day: “Last night we were utterly caught off our guard. We moved about 180 toads in under two hours on the Upper Tokai/ Zwaanswyk Road areas, but regrettably lost a few to speeding cars. Hold thumbs because people are really using Zwaanswyk as a race track. A guy in a huge 4×4 stopped because I was in the middle of the road. I asked him to give me a few seconds while I picked up the four toads in front of his car. Without warning, he sped off and killed all four!”

The unpredictability of the toad movement was proven after this because not another toad was seen in upper Tokai during August, when the females were expected to join the annual matings in the wetlands. But then on Sunday night, September 3, the snoring chorus started up in earnest again on the Steenberg Golf Estate wetlands.

Hanniki responded to my message, saying: “This is a seriously confusing season.” And when I came home last evening, the toad volunteers were being kept very busy again.

We can expect a massive movement of females on the rainy evenings which are predicted this week. Please be careful and join the “People caring for the Earth” to conserve this endangered, iconic, explosive creature of our wetlands.