Every year, CPARG helps to organise and coordinate toad patrols, to aid in the safe transport of common toads (Bufo bufo) to their breeding ponds, across busy roads. The movement of the toads is primarily undertaken at night, which means that volunteers need to be out and about in the evenings when toads are moving, in order to prevent them from becoming casualties. Unfortunately, toads have declined massively over the past couple of decades, so we’re doing everything we can to help safeguard the populations that we have left. This year, we had over 20 volunteers signed up to help with a toad crossing in the centre of Cambridge. Given the success of the patrol despite the difficulties caused by COVID and the cold spring we’ve had, we asked the patrol coordinator Suzanne Little to put into words what it’s like to be a toad patroller and how she first got into it. Below is Suzanne’s story.
I heard about toad patrol in 2018 on social media, a call went out asking for help, they needed help, ….I like saving creatures, ….no contest. I asked Mick (my partner) if he fancied a month or two walking the streets with a bucket and torch, in the dark, wearing a viz jacket, …..why not he said ….sounds like a great idea. It’s 2021 and we are still walking the streets, but this time we have more volunteers, I requested help through notices on lampposts, social media and word of mouth. We have a ‘WhatsApp group’ in which we organise who is patrolling and who is having time off, and just sharing toad type things, and it’s working really well. But I will say, out of 20 odd volunteers we have really only the dedicated reliable handful who actually come out and help, and I take my hat off to them. Toads are declining every season, they are so important to our ecosystem, they need help, we need to educate people.
The real danger for the toads of course, are the cars, bikes, scooters, joggers and even the pedestrians, apart from their natural predators. So I contacted the council in 2019, and spoke to a lovely lady Victoria who said “no problem” to my request for two metal toad signs. Our next project is a banner of sorts to put in the hedge at the junction saying “Caution toad patrol in progress” and with our great volunteers and their different talents I’m sure we will get one.
Toads, … what can I say, these gentle unassuming little critters are magic, their stubbornness and determination to get to their breeding pond is amazing. I feel, because we have taken over basically the planet with our needs and wants and we’ve pushed aside anything else that lives on this beautiful earth, we have a moral obligation to do our bit to help our fellow creatures to survive. Every toad that I place in my bucket brings me joy, and the smiles on the faces of my fellow volunteers says it all. Toads may not be cute and fluffy, but to me, they are just amazing.
I think that says it all, thanks again to Suzanne and all of our wonderful volunteers for all of their hard work. It is always such a challenge to know when the toads are going to be making the crossing, especially when the weather isn’t on your side. In previous years, prolonged dry and chilly spells have either delayed the start of the patrol season or extended it. It’s important to note that anyone can assist with toad patrols, if you’d like to get involved, please contact us through our website.