12 December 2008

Temporary reprieve for toad colony

Local campaigners in Suffolk have applauded news that a housing development scheme is to be delayed, so that the council can monitor the migration of the 5,000-strong Common Toad population across Kiln Meadow next spring.

Earlier in 2008, Froglife announced that the site was the UK’s most active toad crossing (reported to the Toads on Roads scheme) – volunteers lifted 4,400 toads during this year's migration season.

BBC News report that Council leader Liz Harsant said falling land prices played a part in the decision to delay the sale, while the campaign by Ipswich Wildlife Group was also a factor.

Jen Jousiffe, a conservation volunteer fighting to save the land, said: "We think it's absolutely important that they do the investigations they've suggested to work out the impact of building on the site.”

"We are quite pleased they have taken account of local feelings.”

For more on Toads on Roads visit: www.froglife.org/projects

3 December 2008

Paul O’Grady adder bite – Froglife response

Froglife, a national wildlife charity for amphibians and reptiles, has urged for ‘responsible coverage’ from the media today, when reporting on chat-show host Paul O’Grady’s recent adder bite.

Headlines so far today include ‘Lily Savaged’ (Mirror); ‘Horror Snake Attack’ (Mirror Online); ‘Adder Attack’ (Press Association); and ‘…O’Grady “feared for life”’ (The Telegraph).

“While adder bite should always be taken seriously, the likelihood of being bitten should be kept in proportion and an unnecessary fear of snakes should not spoil our enjoyment of the UK’s wildlife and wild places.” said a Froglife spokesman.

The wildlife charity has called the incident, which saw O’Grady bitten by an adder in his house while moving firewood, an “incredibly unlucky encounter” and sympathises with the popular chat-show host. It is likely the adder had chosen to hibernate within a log, and was disturbed when the log was picked up.

“Human cases of adder-bites tend to occur when adders are disturbed or trapped,” the organisation has today re-iterated.

Although often painful, adder bite is rarely fatal - the last human death in Britain was over thirty years ago. Medical treatment of adder bite is very effective.

Adders are a protected species in the UK – it is illegal to kill or injure any of the UK’s snakes and lizards. Evidence indicates that adders are declining in many parts of the UK.

To read Froglife and the Herpetological Conservation Trust’s joint statement on adder-bites earlier this year see: Low Down on Adders.

1 December 2008

Your Christmas gifts can help us too...

As the build-up to Christmas begins, Froglife is urging people to think green for their gift choices – helping wildlife charities through tough financial times.

Here are three such gift ideas, profits from which benefit amphibians and reptiles, and help protect their habitats in the UK.

1. Get your hands on Froglife’s ‘Make Frogspawn not War’ gift bags or our new Froglife Christmas card packs (with three exclusive designs by Froglife’s Sam Taylor!). Help spread the Froglife message > BUY NOW >>>

2. Give the gift of Froglife Friendship to someone you love, and help Froglife provide a voice to amphibians and reptiles in the process > BUY NOW >>>

3. Help children learn about amphibians and reptiles and their habitats – give a budding naturalist one of our Pondchain Games, or our FSC ‘Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Britain and Ireland’ > BUY NOW >>>

NEW FOR December 2008 – buying Christmas books online? You can support Froglife’s important conservation work by purchasing through our online bookstore, courtesy of Eclector Stores – an online shop that stocks millions of books. Until January 1st 2009, Froglife earns 100% of the gross profit on books sold. Order online now: froglife.eclectorstores.com

Spread the word! www.froglife.org/frogalogue

20 November 2008

Global frog celebration hits Scotland

Some of the world’s leading frog experts have been in Scotland to celebrate the closing stages of Year of the Frog 2008 – a global campaign to raise awareness about the enormous extinction crisis facing the world’s frogs, toads and newts.

‘Year of the Frog – a big leap forward’ was organised by Froglife and Edinburgh Zoo (with financial support of Glasgow Natural History Society), and took place on Friday 14th November 2008.

The event was hosted by the eminent zoologist and broadcaster, Professor Aubrey Manning who spoke passionately about the value of amphibians, both ecologically and for human culture:

“Frogs have captured the human imagination for generations, yet we can see them also as ‘canaries in the coalmine’ for the survival of future generations,” said Professor Manning in his opening address.

Speakers on the night represented a number of conservation organisations and institutions working tirelessly to tackle amphibian declines, both globally and in Scotland.

On the night, as well as hearing about conservation efforts in Trinidad, Australia and Panama, attendees also heard about new initiatives and partnerships closer to home. A series of before-and-after photos of pond restorations in and around the City of Glasgow was particularly well received, bringing the sell-out crowd to applause.

Professor Manning summed up the evening, saying: “For amphibians, the statistics are deeply concerning. We needed good news stories and we’ve heard them tonight.”

In 2009, Froglife hope to bring more good news stories to Scotland with the launch of Froglife Scotland (Registered Charity 04382714).

The launch has been welcomed by many Scottish institutions and organisations, individuals and volunteers. Yesterday, Liam McArthur, MSP for Orkney and the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Environment, Rural Development and Energy circulated the following motion to its ministers:

"...the Parliament congratulates the charity Froglife on its Scottish launch which took place at Edinburgh Zoo on Friday 14th of November; recognises the importance of charity’s achievements in England where it has a strong record conserving habitats for amphibians, reptiles and a wide range of other species; further congratulates the charity on its excellent record of achieving its conservation aims through a process of engaging and working with a diverse section of the population including harder to reach groups such as young offenders and people with learning difficulties; wishes the charity every success in its continued work and looks forward to seeing the benefits that this work can bring to Scotland."

More at: www.froglife.org/scotland

30 October 2008

Froglife gets ready for leap off

In two weeks Froglife is holding an event to celebrate the efforts of a number of experts committed to saving amphibians from extinction, both in the UK and abroad. You can be a part of it!

‘Year of the Frog – a big leap forward’ will be held on the evening of Friday 14th November at Edinburgh Zoo. The event will be chaired by the eminent Professor Aubrey Manning, authority on animal behaviour and renowned BBC broadcaster.

The exciting evening gives you a chance to hear the story of some of the hard-working fieldworkers, scientists, landscape-shapers, and campaigners who will be continuing the fight for amphibians long after Year of the Frog 2008 ends.

Speakers at the event will include respected herpetologists Professor Tim Halliday and Professor Roger Downie, Glasgow City Council’s Jim Coyle MBE speaking alongside individuals from Froglife and The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

Limited tickets remain - book early!

Tickets (£5 each) can be paid by cheque (made payable to ‘The Froglife Trust’ and posted to Froglife, 9 Swan Court, Cygnet Park, Peterborough PE7 8GX) or by credit/debit card over the phone (01733 558844 - office hours). For additional information please email: info@froglife.org.

For more information: http://www.froglife.org/year_of_the_frog_event.htm

23 October 2008

Froglife through a lens

Earlier this year Froglife launched a national photo competition, giving the public the chance to contribute their images to Just Add Water, our upcoming advice booklet supported by the Environment Agency.

Well, the results are in. We had a great response and received some truly amazing photos. Over 60 entrants and hundreds of photos were sent our way.

Four winning photos were chosen for categories covering pond animals, big ponds, little ponds and the hotly contested ‘Why I love my pond’.

The photos will feature in the final Just Add Water booklet. The publication will run alongside a year-long campaign encouraging people to install ponds big and small, for the benefit of amphibians in urban areas.

See the winning photos: www.froglife.org/photo_competition

9 October 2008

Frog Disease Appeal frogmarches onwards

To mark the final month of our Frog Disease Appeal, on Sunday 12th of October Froglife staff will undertake a sponsored Frogmarch at the Great Eastern Run in Peterborough.

So far this year our Froglife Appeal has raised £3,000, allowing us to raise staff capacity during the busy summer months, and to begin enhancing our website – we’ve started work on a mapping facility for disease reports. It has also helped us raise awareness, allowing Froglife the funds to give out free advice sheets on amphibian disease to hundreds of enquirers. In addition it has supported our work with the media too, alongside our partners The Institute of London (ZSL).

Ten Froglife staff will take part in the Run and we hope to raise a further £1,000 – allowing us funds to act further as we look to 2009 and beyond.

Last year around 3,000 runners raced through the flat streets of Peterborough, supported by thousands of spectators along the course cheering everyone on.

You can sponsor a staff member (or the whole Froglife team!) by visiting: www.froglife.org/support

6 October 2008

Newts receive Countdown 2010 lifeline

Great crested newts, rare algae-like plants and water-beetles are among a list of species to benefit from a new Froglife project.

The ‘Ponds in the Landscape’ project will be launched later this year, thanks to funding, announced today, from Natural England’s Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund.

The project will work to stop the declining status of ponds in the Cambridgeshire area by working with farmers, local councils and the public.

Focusing on 16 sites, ‘Ponds in the Landscape’ will restore and create habitats for a number of target species, including great crested newts and stoneworts (rare algae-like plants). The project will help produce management guides for the key pond areas, as well as contributing to a strategy that will put in place actions to make sure pond habitats can be saved in Cambridgeshire.

“Ponds are one of the key places for wildlife in the county – they’re crucial for sustaining many rare species, and act as important stepping stones in landscapes that have been fragmented by human activity. They also have important health benefits too.” said Kathy Wormald, Froglife’s Chief Executive.

“Our ‘Ponds in the Landscape’ project will help us bring together the infrastructure for getting ponds, and other areas of standing water in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, adequately protected, now and in future. It’s an exciting step forward.”

Ponds are a priority habitat for wildlife in the region because numerous species are dependent on them for water, breeding and finding food. Amphibians particularly will benefit from the project, not least the Great Crested Newt – a species that has faced enormous declines in the region as a result of pond loss in the last fifty years.

‘Ponds in the Landscape’ will benefit the region’s human population too. Part of the project will focus on innovative ways in which freshwater ecosystems can help prevent floods, as well as enhancing water quality and improving the region’s environmental credentials.

The project will bring together a number of organisations in the region, committed to wildlife conservation, including: The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northampton and Peterborough; the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group; Buglife; Plantlife, Produce World Limited and a host of others.

For more information on Froglife's work in the area: www.froglife.org/peterborough

2 October 2008

'Outdoor Classroom' gets thumbs up

An Ofsted report, today released, underlines further the value of outdoor learning to education, adding weight to the government’s 'Learning Outside of the Classroom Manifesto', of which Froglife is a signatory.

The report shows that, when planned and implemented well, learning outside of the classroom contributes significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.

The announcement was made at today’s Learning Outside of the Classroom Conference in Greenwich, London. Froglife joined the Wildlife Trust and the RSPB at the event, which is the first of its kind.

For more on Froglife’s work with schools visit: www.froglife.org/schools.htm

29 September 2008

Amphibian populations could halve by 2050

Half of Europe's frogs and toads and newts could be wiped out in the next 40 years, scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have warned.

Factors including climate change, habitat destruction and disease are having a serious effect, said ZSL scientists at a special event hosted by Sir David Attenborough on 25th September 2008.

Speaking at the lecture, Dr Trent Garner, a Research Fellow at ZSL, said climate change will dramatically affect the living conditions of amphibians and survival of populations:

“Published projections show that climate change alters amphibians’ habitats so we expect a large number of amphibian species to be faced with loss of habitat and ultimately extinction.” said Dr Garner.

“In the UK we are already seeing common toads losing condition and experiencing reduced survival. As climate change continues to impact habitats, the situation gets far worse for these native species.” he added.

In addition to identifying climate change as a threat, Dr Garner and his colleagues also highlighted two infectious diseases affecting survival rates, a chytrid fungus and ranaviruses. Ranavirus kills thousands of amphibians in the UK each year and the chytrid fungus, implicated in extinctions of amphibian species around the world, has recently been identified in the UK.

Froglife and the Institute of Zoology (based at ZSL) have been working on the issue of amphibian disease in the UK since 1992, through our Frog Mortality Project. Currently Froglife are running a Frog Disease Appeal so that the Frog Mortality Project can expand and better inform scientists of the disease threat, working toward a safer future for the UK's amphibians >>> Frog Disease Appeal…

Later this year solutions to the imminent extinction crisis facing the world’s amphibians will be discussed at another ZSL event: ‘Halting the Global Decline in Amphibians: research and practice’ – a two-day symposium being held on 20 & 21st of November 2008 >>> More details…

19 September 2008

One Show. Thirty thousand newts.

Great crested newts and the wildlife value of specific 'brownfield' sites featured this week on BBC’s The One Show.

Wildlife presenter Mike Dilger talked about his trip with Froglife to Hampton Nature Reserve. This former brickworks in Peterborough is now a haven for amphibians and reptiles, holding what’s thought to be Europe’s largest colony of great crested newts.

Watch it again: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dnb7f

Hampton Nature Reserve is managed by Froglife on behalf of landowners O&H Hampton.

For more about Hampton Nature Reserve: www.froglife.org/hamptonnaturereserve


Make Frogspawn not War! Gift-bags, publications, Froglife Friendships and other Christmas fillers >>> www.froglife.org/frogalogue

15 September 2008

'Mess is more’ for overwintering amphibians

As the summer winds down, now is a good time to think about winter shelter for the UK’s amphibians, say Froglife.

We’re suggesting three tips to give your frogs, toads and newts a fighting chance in the coming months…

1. Mess is more: don’t do your spring cleaning in autumn. Leaving an area of your garden slightly messy benefits an array of wildlife. Amphibians like to lie under patio slabs, under piles of rubble, compost bags or under wood-piles. Shaded areas, which don’t dry out too much, are best.

2. Don’t let your pond ice over: Common frogs often overwinter on the pond bottom, lying largely still but occasionally moving on warmer days. When the cold weather hits, make sure your ponds do not retain a layer of ice for too long – this can kill resting frogs. One solution is to leave a ball floating on the pond before the cold weather hits. When the ice layer has formed remove the ball leaving a hole through which pond gases can move. Never try and smash the ice.

3. Go pro: some people build specific habitat features (called hibernacula) for amphibians to see out the winter months. These can be a mixture of dead wood, rocks and bricks, all loosely filled with topsoil. Many are sited within a shallow excavation too. This approach can work very well (and offers good overwintering habitat for other species), but beware of flooding on clay or other slow-draining soils. The nearer the pond the better. For more information on hibernacula visit: www.froglife.org/GCNCH/7.pdf

In the UK, pond losses in the wider countryside have reduced the number of viable amphibian habitats. In some areas gardens can help buffer these losses, benefiting local amphibians (and the wider food chain) enormously.


Make Frogspawn not War! Gift-bags, publications, Froglife Friendships and other Christmas fillers >>> www.froglife.org/frogalogue

Froglife - http://www.froglife.org/

Froglife is a UK wildlife charity committed to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles - working with people, enhancing lives togetherfor a healthier planet.

11 September 2008

Year of the Frog - a big leap forward

Froglife is holding a special evening of talks at Edinburgh Zoo, celebrating Year of the Frog by saluting those working hard in the field of amphibian conservation in Scotland.

This unique event gives you a chance to hear the story of some of these hard-working fieldworkers, scientists, landscape-shapers, and campaigners who will be continuing the fight for amphibians long after Year of the Frog 2008 ends.

The evening event will take place on Friday 14th November 2008, and includes a reception with light refreshments.

Please spread the word - we'd love you to join us.

For more information: www.froglife.org/year_of_the_frog_event.htm

Health-checks for the nation’s frogs

Conservation charities the Froglife and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are calling for the public to look out for and report cases of sick and dead frogs – and other amphibians like toads and newts – in an attempt to expand vital research into the state of the nation’s amphibians.

The UK’s amphibians are being affected by two significant diseases, ranavirus and the chytrid fungus. Ranavirus kills thousands of frogs, toads and newts in the UK each year and the chytrid fungus, implicated in extinctions of amphibian species around the world, has recently been identified in the UK.

Scientists remain unsure of the extent to which amphibian populations are being affected and what the implications for the UK’s frogs, toads and newts may be. Dr Andrew Cunningham, senior ZSL scientist, commented, “Amphibians are being devastated by disease on a global scale but we have only an extremely limited picture of what is going on in our own backyard. Reports of outbreaks across the UK are absolutely vital for ZSL’s continuing research and, in the long term, to ensure the survival of our extraordinary amphibians.”

“There is a whole range of reasons why dead amphibians turn up in gardens and many of these are completely normal events. However, during the humid summer months we hear numerous reports of unusual frog deaths in gardens.” said Daniel Piec, Froglife’s Head of Conservation. “We are appealing to the public for information on new cases so that we can paint a better picture of the damage these amphibian diseases are inflicting.”

Both diseases are harmless to humans, but in amphibians result in a variety of symptoms that could include lethargy, thinness or unexplained mass-deaths of adults or juvenile amphibians. Internal bleeding and open skin sores have also been reported. Members of the public who have come across unusual amphibian deaths in their gardens are urged to submit their information on the Froglife website: www.froglife.org. This information will then be used by ZSL in its research on diseases affecting UK amphibians.

Find out more: www.froglife.org/disease

Don't forget: if you have healthy amphibians in your garden we still want to hear from you - fill in our Frogwatch online survey form and provide us with crucial control data we need for our research on frog disease: www.froglife.org/disease

Froglife gets snappy

Froglife is putting together a new guide to wildlife ponds as an update to its hugely successful 'Pond Heaven' booklet.

We are offering the public an opportunity to contribute to this new booklet by submitting photos of their ponds and pond wildlife.

Entrants have a chance of winning one of five Froglife photography awards. Budding photographers are being urged to get snapping - the competition is only running for one month (closing date 12th September 2008).

Get snap-happy: see full details and an online live gallery at www.froglife.org/photo_competition

Low-down on adders

In the aftermath of a recent adder bite incident, Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust – both charities representing the UK’s amphibians and reptiles- commiserate with ten-year-old victim, Mollie Hawker, and offer some advice to prevent recurrence of a similar event.

Froglife’s Head of Conservation Daniel Piec said, “In our increasingly urbanised society people rarely encounter wild snakes. It comes as a surprise to some of us to learn that we have snakes living in the UK, but there are, in fact, three species. Although still uncommon events, the warm months of the summer are when most snake encounters occur – but these need not create unnecessary alarm”.

The snake most likely to be seen is the grass snake, because it sometimes visits gardens. Harmless to pets, grass snakes may frequent garden ponds during the summer, in search of their prey, frogs, toads and newts. Legless lizards, slow-worms, are often mistaken for snakes and can also be found in gardens in some parts of the country. They, too, are harmless.

Our only venomous snake is the adder. While adder bite should always be taken seriously, the likelihood of being bitten should be kept in proportion and an unnecessary fear of snakes should not spoil our enjoyment of the outdoors.

John Baker, Widespread Species Officer for the Herpetological Conservation Trust, said, “Adders tend to be found in wild places, such as heathland, downs, moorland and woodland rides rather than in our gardens. They are usually confined to specific areas locally – the countryside is certainly not crawling with adders. Even in ‘adder territory’, the chances of an encounter are slim. But there are precautions you can take to minimise these even further.”

“Keeping to paths reduces the chance of taking an adder by surprise, and stout footwear, such as walking boots are a sensible protective measure.”

He added: “The adder is not an aggressive animal – it does not seek out humans, and quite the opposite will do its best to avoid them. If you do come across a snake, then the best advice is to leave it alone. Most adder bites occur through people picking up the snake!”

If anyone is unfortunate enough to be bitten, then the advice is simple – the casualty should be immobilised, but taken to hospital where a proper medical assessment and any necessary treatment can be given. Although often painful, adder bite is rarely fatal - the last human death in Britain was over thirty years ago. Medical treatment of adder bite is very effective.

And what about the third native snake? The smooth snake, is such a rare and secretive beast, found only on heathlands in southern England, that there is almost no chance of meeting one.

Froglife’s Daniel Piec concludes: “With a bit of understanding, the risk posed by the adder virtually disappears and the unlikely event of a snake encounter should be a positive highlight of the outdoor experience, rather than something to worry about”.

For further information - including tips on identifying adders and advice on adder bites- visit: www.froglife.org/advice.htm

Froglife has cross words for child safety leaflet

Froglife has expressed serious concern over a crossword puzzle given to a number of schools and youth groups in the UK as part of Child Safety Week.

The organisation says that one question on the offending document has potentially set back the urban wildlife conservation movement by encouraging people to remove ponds, to alleviate fears of young people drowning.

‘4 Across: It’s best to fill this in, if you have young children and one of these in your garden (4)’ the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) crossword clue says.

Froglife say that the children’s leaflet should have highlighted that alternatives to pond removal exist, such as fencing off ponds or adding mesh coverings, as is suggested elsewhere on the CAPT website.

“To see a recommendation that ponds be filled in, without any mention of methods to make ponds safe, lacks any sort of understanding of the value of ponds for people, wildlife and education and sets back the hard work of many wildlife organisations.” said Froglife’s Education Officer Sam Taylor, who commended the otherwise excellent work of CAPT.

In terms of education ponds are of enormous importance. Under supervision, children can see real life examples of many of the things they learn in the classroom: ecosystems, foodchains, biodiversity and identification. Plus potential pond-dippers develop a confidence in the wider world, and an appreciation and respect for local nature, Froglife say.

“In many urban areas ponds offer young people a chance to encounter local nature up-close, and for many people this may represent the only opportunity they have for this form of learning.” said Sam Taylor.

Ponds have important value for wildlife in urban areas – allowing populations of amphibians to thrive, as well as providing crucial places for dragonflies and other pond invertebrates. They also provide stepping stones for other species to come into urban areas – such as grass snakes, birds and even bats.

Urban ponds also help buffer the disappearance of natural ponds in the wild - the number of ponds in the UK countryside was estimated to have declined by over a third from the 1940s to the 1980s*.

“There are, of course, dangers associated with ponds, but it’s important to stress everywhere possible that safety measures exist that can eliminate this risk.” added Mrs Taylor.

Froglife recommend three steps to make your pond safe until children are older and more aware of the dangers surrounding water:

1. Do not allow unsupervised play near garden ponds.
2. Fence off a pond, with a strong 1.1metre high fence with lockable gate.
3. Invest in a metal grating to cover the pond – easily installable brand products exist for this purpose.