‘Frog lad­ders’ help crit­ters es­cape death-trap

Financial Chronicle - - EDIT, OPED, THE WORKS -

As­mall group of British con­ser­va­tion­ists are in­stalling mesh­cov­ered lad­ders in road­side drains to save trapped am­phib­ians from cer­tain death.

The War­wick­shire Am­phib­ian and Rep­tile Team — the mem­o­rably acronymed WART — hopes that by plac­ing 20 of the rust-re­sis­tant alu­minum lad­ders down drains near known breed­ing pools in Eng­land’s West Mid­lands, they can boost the dwin­dling am­phib­ian pop­u­la­tion. There are two species of frog and two species of toad in the United King­dom but you are only likely to see com­mon frogs and com­mon toads.

“The am­phib­ians are com­ing to breed and then hit­ting the road, get­ting across the roads, hit­ting the curb, along the curb and into the drains. And then that’s it – end of story for them, game over,” said Tim Jenk­ins, a lad­der fit­ter at War­wick­shire Am­phib­ian and Rep­tile Team.

“By in­stalling the am­phib­ian lad­ders, it en­ables them to get back out of the drains and back to their breed­ing pools and do­ing what they should do and mak­ing more am­phib­ians.”

The is­sue of trapped toads is not limited to Bri­tain. A 2012 study in the Nether­lands es­ti­mated that more than half a mil­lion small ver­te­brates like frogs, toads and newts end up trapped in gully pots and drains each year.

It is one of the fac­tors, along with habi­tat loss, that is blamed for com­mon toad num­bers de­clin­ing by 68 per cent in the United King­dom over the past 30 years, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by the con­ser­va­tion group Froglife.

The War­wick­shire Am­phib­ian and Rep­tile Team says it’s seen a drop in the num­ber of am­phib­ian pris­on­ers since the lad­ders were in­stalled, but there is a limit to how much they can do.

Each of the lad­ders de­signed by the British Her­peto­log­i­cal So­ci­ety costs 15 pounds ($20), a large price for a lo­cal con­ser­va­tion group. The group hopes their en­deav­ors can in­spire other con­ser­va­tion groups in the United King­dom to help the oft-ma­ligned crit­ters.

“They are an over­looked species and they have their role in the ecosys­tem. They are ab­so­lutely ex­cel­lent for gar­dens be­cause they eat lots of in­ver­te­brates – po­ten­tial pests in your gar­den,” Jenk­ins said.

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