Odd toad behaviour

Professor Eugene Moll, Kirstenhof

On Saturday November 29 while on my daily morning walk through the Kirstenhof “wetlands”, I saw two pairs of mating leopard toads in the canalised part of the Westlake River. Leading up to this I had heard no characteristic “snoring” – and this siting is the first I have had at this time of year in more than a decade of observations (the toads were certainly leopard toads and not the invasive guttural toad – which is what I would have expected).

The other interesting thing about this past year’s mating season is that the majority of leopard toad mating, and later tadpoles, was seen in the canal; virtually none in the so-called duck pond.

Perhaps this is because the City have neglected the management of this pool – that is packed with alien aquatics such that the fish will most certainly be compromised this summer by a shortage of oxygen. (This happens almost annually despite the Friends lobbying the City).

In my experience this has been a strange year, not only for the leopard toads but for many of the plants growing locally. Also the Westlake River, that almost dried up for the first time in a decade last year, is almost dry now and the level of water in the duck pond is as low now as it was in early January 2016. So clearly this year the pond will get much lower that I have ever experienced. This drought is not only impacting wildlife but we humans are going to suffer much more than our leaders are predicting.

Johan van der Merwe, Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning responds:

The resident is welcome to forward any photographs of the amplexus pair or information such as this to the Western Leopard Toad Conservation Committee (WLT-CC) or post it on iSpot’s www.ispotnature.org

Generally, invasive species are controlled annually in the Westlake River system (including the ‘“duck pond”) except during western leopard toad breeding season, which is generally between October and mid-January.

The City’s Invasive Species Unit liaises with the Western Leopard Toad Working Group about when it is safe to resume clearing operations. Biological control insects are released throughout the year to control weeds such as parrot’s feather, water lettuce and giant salvinia (Kariba weed). Other weeds such as Commelina, Persicaria and watercress have no biological control insects and that is the reason why they proliferate during the times that the team are unable to work. Clearing will resume as soon as it is safe again for the leopard toads.

Brett Herron, mayco member for transport responds:

The entire Westlake River system and duck pond form part of the western leopard toad breeding site.

Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, does not dredge any river system between July 1 and December 31 where there are

leopard toad breeding sites. The duck pond is an open water body that is fed by underground water and is not directly connected to the Westlake River at all. TCT assisted in the past to dredge this pond from sludge and silt, in particular during December months. The Westlake River will be cleared between January and March 2017.