7 July 2009

Gardeners urged to look out for little dragons…

Launching at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, a new campaign called ‘Dragons in your Garden’ will encourage gardeners to take simple steps to help out the UK’s frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards – many of which are disappearing from the wider countryside.

By providing free advice to gardeners about adding ponds, compost heaps, rockeries and bog gardens, conservationists from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation hope to see populations of ‘little dragons’ like smooth newts, slow-worms (a legless lizard), and even grass snakes, flourish in urban areas where they may be scarce currently.

The campaign launches with a ‘Dragon’s Garden’ exhibit at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

The Dragon’s Garden showgarden includes a pond with plants suitable for egg-laying by newts, frogs and toads as well as ‘nursery areas’ for developing tadpoles. The structure and planting of the Dragon’s Garden also mimics that of reptiles' natural habitat, providing open areas for basking alongside hiding places and foraging sites.

The Dragon’s Garden also features a reptile-friendly compost heap: rotting compost is a natural source of warmth for grass snakes and their developing eggs, and a place for slow-worms to give birth.

The showgarden was awarded Bronze by the Royal Horticultural Society judges yesterday.

“Populations of amphibians and reptiles in the UK have declined and are still declining. A little help from gardeners can make a real difference to the conservation of these enigmatic species.” said Dr. John Wilkinson of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

Of the UK’s thirteen species of amphibians and reptiles, ten species are listed on the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) priority ‘watchlist’.

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show signifies the first public event of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation – the new charity formed from the merger of Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust.

The Dragon’s Garden was researched and designed by the National Diploma in Horticulture students from Kingston Maurward College, Dorset. The wider campaign is supported by a number of organisations including Scottish Natural Heritage, Herpetosure, Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

For a free copy of the advice booklet ‘Dragons in your Garden’ please visit www.arc-trust.org/dragons or call Amphibian and Reptile Conservation on 01733 558960.

6 July 2009

Efforts to save UK’s disappearing amphibians and reptiles boosted by charity merger

The mounting ‘extinction crisis’ facing frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards across the UK and Europe has led to the merger of two UK-based organisations dedicated to their conservation.

Launching today, the new charity ‘Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’ -formed from the merger of The Froglife Trust (Froglife) and The Herpetological Conservation Trust (The HCT)- will be a single voice for the conservation of these animals and their habitats.

The charities have merged in order to use limited resources more efficiently to tackle the causes of the recent decline. Major threats include habitat loss, pollution, non-native diseases, climate change and the isolation of populations by roads and other infrastructure.

More than half of all European amphibians and two-fifths of all reptile species are disappearing, according to studies published last month funded by the European Commission and carried out by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Of the UK’s thirteen species of amphibians and reptiles, ten are listed on the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) ‘Watchlist’.

“This merger is a common sense approach to wildlife conservation.” said Jonathan Webster, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s Chair of Trustees. “Put simply, we can act with greater influence as a single organisation than as two separate entities.“

"The merger makes us more effective in achieving our shared goal, which is to reverse the current widespread decline of amphibians and reptiles, by actively improving wildlife habitats and encouraging a wider audience to understand and appreciate the importance of these animals”

Both Froglife and The HCT were formed in 1989. Froglife traditionally focused on public campaigns and education projects. The HCT focused on reserve management and protecting rare species like the Natterjack toad, Sand lizard and Smooth snake.

As a single organisation Amphibian and Reptile Conservation will cover a range of activities to conserve frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards.

Activities will include managing eighty nature reserves, working with the education sector, researching and monitoring species’ populations in the wild, and working with other wildlife organisations and the public, to influence wildlife legislation and its implementation relating to reptiles and amphibians.

As well as working in the UK, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation will also work in Europe and in the UK overseas territories.

The formation of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation is thought to be the highest profile merger in the UK wildlife charity sector.

The merger has been applauded by many within the UK wildlife conservation sector:

Kate Humble, presenter of the BBC’s Springwatch series said: "This is what it's all about: people and organisations coming together and sharing resources and knowledge to make sure that their shared vision of saving wildlife can be realised."

Distinguished zoologist and broadcaster Professor Aubrey Manning said: “Amphibians and reptiles are often inconspicuous in Britain, but they are a fascinating and important part of the web of life. This merger will help to bring the best minds and resources to bear on their conservation.”

For more information please visit: www.arc-trust.org

11 June 2009

MERGER UPDATE: Metamorphosis continues at Froglife and The HCT

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation -the new organisation forming through the merger of Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust- will be a key feature of this year’s RHS Hampton Court Flower show.

The organisations are working on a Dragon Gardens exhibit which will encourage garden-owners to make changes to their gardens to encourage amphibians and reptiles into urban areas.

The Dragon Gardens will be part of a long campaign to encourage people to make gardens more frog- and snake-friendly, partly as a way to counteract the disappearances of these species in the wider countryside throughout the last century.

The event (July 6th – 12th 2009) will be Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s first as one united conservation NGO. The organisations agreed to begin the merger process in April.

“It became increasingly obvious that the two organisation’s work and skills were complimentary and collectively we could do more for amphibian and reptile conservation as a single body than as two separate entities.” said Tony Gent, HCT’s Chief Executive in a recent interview with Frogpage, Froglife’s in-house magazine.

“This will give amphibians and reptiles a much-needed united voice,” said Kathy Wormald, Froglife’s Chief Executive. “We believe that the new organisation will be a formidable force in the nature conservation sector.”

Though this will be the first public event as Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, the merger process of the two organisations will continue until March 31st 2010.

28 May 2009

Set-aside concerns voiced…

Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust join a number of the UK’s leading conservation organisations in pushing the Government to make the right decision over set-aside in the UK.

The EU’s now defunct set-aside policy inadvertently created valuable habitat for a number of species and helped keep agricultural pollutants out of waterways.

In a letter to Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the organisations outline their concern over the upcoming Government decision on set-aside.

The farming industry’s plan sees farmers encouraged to set-aside through voluntary action, something that wildlife organisations say “…will undoubtedly fail to achieve what is needed as it lacks urgency and specific targets.”

Although the signatories welcome the concept of farmers having responsibility for choosing to set-aside, they suggest that an approach to manage set-aside in return for a public subsidy would stand a much better chance of success.

The letter, signed by a number of Wildlife and Countryside Link members, comes as the period of public consultation on the issue comes to an end.

For more on the upcoming merger between Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust: http://froglife-frogbites.blogspot.com/2009/04/froglife-is-metamorphosing_06.html

27 May 2009

Living Water reaches Bexley

Froglife has received funding from the Cory Ibstock Environmental Trust to extend its London Living Water project into the London Borough of Bexley, in south east London.

The project will focus on habitat creation and improvement work needed at Foots Cray Meadows which is a 97 hectare park and open green-space; a rolling landscape of ancient woodland and wildflower meadows, with the River Cray at its heart.

The site has records of Smooth Newt, Common Frog, Common Toad, and Grass Snake. In addition Great crested newts have recently been rediscovered at the site.

In the coming months Froglife will be working in partnership with the London Borough of Bexley and other local stakeholders to develop a programme of habitat work that will greatly improve the site's biodiversity value - especially for amphibians and reptiles - within the local landscape.

Froglife will be creating a more diverse mosaic of standing water and associated wetland habitat; restoring ditches, enhancing an existing old pond and creating new ponds. The work will help improve the connectivity of habitats that exist on the site, helping to create wildlife corridors.

This exciting work will also contribute to the London Standing Water Biodiversity Habitat Action Plan for which Froglife is the lead partner.

For more information and an interactive map of Froglife's work in London: www.froglife.org/london/london_map.htm

20 May 2009

“Sobering discovery” for Europe’s amphibians and reptiles

More than half of all European amphibians and two-fifths of all reptiles are disappearing, according to new studies commissioned by the European Commission and carried out by IUCN.

Announced today, the results are the first of their kind in Europe. They highlight alarming declines for a range of frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards. The study shows that of Europe’s 85 species of amphibian, 23% now feature on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species. Of 151 reptile species, 22% are on the Red List.

Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the Environment, called it “a sobering discovery”.

“This reflects the enormous pressure we are placing on Europe’s plants and animals, and underlines the need to rethink our relation to the natural world,” he said. “These trends cannot continue.”

Dr Helen Temple, co-author of the study said: “Natural habitats across Europe are being squeezed by growing human populations, agricultural intensification, urban sprawl and pollution.”

“That is not good news for either amphibians or reptiles.”

The results will be presented on World Biodiversity Day, Friday 22nd May 2009.

For more details: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/

14 May 2009

The One Show features reptile-friendly gardening

Slow-worms will take a star-turn on tonight’s The One Show on BBC1. They will be featuring in a specially prepared reptile garden, created by Froglife and Herpetosure.

The garden will feature a number of reptile-friendly features, including compost heaps, rockeries in which to hide and bask, and areas to hibernate.

On the show presenters will urge the public to take part in the Reptiles and Amphibians in Your Garden Survey, being coordinated by Froglife, The Herpetological Conservation Trust and The British Trust for Ornithology.

See for yourself: The One Show, Thursday 14th May on BBC1 at 7pm.

To take part in our national stocktake of reptiles and amphibians in garden, visit: Reptiles and Amphibians in Your Garden Survey.

8 May 2009

Disease risk exposed in global amphibian trade

Published research in the US has shown for the first time that the global trade in amphibians is spreading two amphibian diseases – one of which is thought to be behind a number of recent amphibian extinctions.

The article, published in the journal Biological Conservation and reported today in New Scientist, refers to examinations undertaken on frogs that were imported through three major US ports: Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Tests undertaken on North American bullfrogs Rana catesbeiana and frog parts showed that over eight percent of frogs had ranaviral disease, with two-thirds carrying chytrid fungus. The fungus is thought to be a key factor in many recent amphibian declines and extinctions.
The study underlines how important it is that exporting nations certify that their animals are disease-free, and importing nations check this on arrival.

Last year the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) took a step towards monitoring both by making them "notifiable", but as yet there are no firm regulations to prevent the trade of infected frogs.

The study found that over 7 million kilograms of amphibians (and amphibian parts) were imported into the US between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2005.

To find out more about Froglife’s work on ranavirus in the UK, alongside our partners the Institute of Zoology (London), visit: www.froglife.org/disease

27 April 2009

Planet says “Save the Frogs” – UK says “Dig for Britain”

Frog populations have been disappearing worldwide at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s 6,418 amphibian species are threatened with extinction. At least 100 species have completely disappeared since 1980.

In an effort to raise awareness of the plight of amphibians, the scientific community has declared April 28th 2009 the first Annual 'Save the Frogs Day'.

Worldwide, a number of amphibian conservation organisations, scientists and schools will encourage the appreciation and celebration of amphibians by people from all walks of life.

In the UK, Froglife –a national wildlife charity conserving amphibians and reptiles– is urging the public to dig more garden ponds.

Amphibian numbers in the UK’s countryside have declined in the last hundred years, largely through the disappearance of the ponds on which they depend to breed. The situation is now so serious that many populations are dependent on urban garden ponds and urban allotments to survive.

Froglife says more ponds are needed for amphibians, and the public can contribute: “85% of the UK population have gardens, and many of these can be made frog-friendly by adding a pond.” said Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Wildlife Information Officer. “Within months, ponds often become an oasis for local wildlife – providing feeding and breeding grounds for a host of amphibians, and many invertebrates, mammals and birds.”

To celebrate Save the Frogs Day, Froglife is offering the public free copies of a booklet called ‘Just Add Water’. The booklet offers advice on how to build a pond, and covers a variety of subjects: from what shape to dig, how deep to go, and where to get the water; to technical advice on making ponds safe for young children.

“What we’re calling for is for gardeners to put down the trowel, reach for the spade and get digging – Save the Frogs Day is the perfect day to get started,” said Ms Benyon.

You can find out more about Just Add Water by visiting: www.froglife.org/justaddwater

To find out more about Save the Frogs Day visit: www.savethefrogs.com/day

Bafta award for Life in Cold Blood

Froglife and the Herpetological Conservation Trust (HCT) congratulate Sir David Attenborough on winning a Bafta for the ground-breaking BBC1 documentary programme about reptiles and amphibians, Life in Cold Blood.

Attenborough took to the stage after an excerpt from Life in Cold Blood showed a pair of copulating tortoises. "Thanks go to spitting cobras, axolotls, golden frogs, dwarf chameleons, those happy tortoises," Attenborough said. "I have got the best job going, and to go around the world and see all those marvelous things is more than anyone could wish for."

The Bafta is the eighth time he and his programmes have been honoured.

To find out more about the UK species of Life in Cold Blood visit: www.froglife.org/advice.htm

9 April 2009

Easter egg search…

As an alternative to the seasonal celebrations, Froglife is recommending that people go searching for newt eggs this Easter Holiday weekend, and help conservation efforts that may save some amphibians from further declines.

“April is an excellent time to reach for the torch to search for newts while they are laying their eggs on pond plants.” said Lucy Benyon, Froglife's Wildlife Information Officer. “Many pond-owners don’t even realise they have newts in their gardens, so now is the best time to have a look while they’re in ponds egg-laying."

Unlike frogs and toads, newts lay their jelly-covered eggs one-by-one. Female newts quietly lay them on the leaves of submerged pond-plants, before curling the leaves over them for protection. Each female newt can lay over a hundred eggs in a season.

Froglife recommends that those with newts in their gardens take part in a national ‘stocktake’ of amphibians and reptiles, being undertaken by Froglife, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Herpetological Conservation Trust.

The results will contribute to knowledge of where frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards are found nationally and allow scientists a better insight to how important gardens are for their conservation.

The stock-take is open to all garden-owners, whether they have frogs, toads, newts, snakes or lizards (or none of these species - the information is still valuable). To get hold of your ‘Reptiles and Amphibians in Your Garden’ pack, visit: www.froglife.org/projects/garden_reptiles_amphibs.htm

6 April 2009

Froglife is metamorphosing…

Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust (The HCT) have announced their intention to merge, forming one single strong conservation NGO.

The new organisation will be called the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and will continue the range of activities currently undertaken by Froglife and the HCT, while providing a stronger basis for conserving amphibians and reptiles in the future.

Both Froglife and the HCT have worked closely on key issues in recent years, including the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plans, on issues like amphibian disease and on advice and guidance for the public and land-managers. Throughout this time it has become increasingly clear that the two organisations could be many times more effective in their mutual aim of conserving amphibians and reptiles, if united as a single organisation – giving the organisations a full range of skills and projects that could not be achieved in any other manner.

Although the decision has been made to merge, the details, and timescales, of the necessary processes have not been finalised. While this is happening, the two organisations will continue to exist as separate entities but will be working increasingly closely with each other to a common set of goals.

Both Froglife and the HCT will be posting more details in due course. For more information on the HCT please visit: http://www.herpconstrust.org.uk/

2 April 2009

First UK ‘stock-take’ for reptiles and amphibians

A national ‘stock-take’ of the reptiles and amphibians in the UK’s gardens is being launched today.

Called Reptiles and Amphibians in your Garden, this national project is being undertaken by The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust (HCT). The survey will bring together an army of amateur wildlife watchers including birdwatchers, gardeners, hands-on conservation volunteers and the general public.

The results will contribute to knowledge of where frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards are found nationally and allow scientists a better insight to how important gardens are for their conservation. The results will also be used to understand how amphibian and reptile populations may be responding to a variety of threats, including habitat loss, disease and garden chemicals.

Although people may think of amphibians and reptiles as creatures that occur only in the countryside, the 13 species native to Britain can all, to differing degrees, inhabit gardens.

Some gardens can harbour hundreds of common frogs, and others can house large populations of slow-worms (a legless lizard). Grass snakes can also be prevalent in some urban areas, where they dip in and out of ponds looking for amphibian prey.

Volunteers are needed to complete a simple recording form, marking off species they have seen and answering straightforward questions about their gardens, such as whether they have a pond, whether they use pesticides or whether or not they have a compost heap.

“This is the largest survey of these species focused on gardens in Britain and has been designed to compliment other studies that are tracking the fate of amphibians and reptiles in the British countryside.” said John Baker from The HCT.

Mike Toms, Head of Garden Ecology at the BTO, commented “The BTO’s army of 16,000 Garden BirdWatchers are perfectly placed to keep an eye out for reptiles and amphibians within their gardens; in fact, many already keep records of these species as part of their regular weekly recording.”

“This stock-take will be a benchmark in our understanding of these animals in urban areas, and the results will guide the advice we give to the public on what they can do to help these unique and charismatic animals in our backyards.” said Daniel Piec, Froglife Head of Conservation.
Of the UK’s 13 species of amphibians and reptiles, 10 species are listed on the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) ‘watchlist’.

For your ‘Reptiles and Amphibians in your Garden’ pack please call The BTO on 01842-750050 or email: gbw@bto.org

Find out more: www.froglife.org/projects/garden_reptiles_amphibs.htm

21 March 2009

Support for wiser water use

More than half (52 per cent) the people questioned would not swim in their local river because they think it is too polluted.

This is the shocking finding from a survey carried out for the Blueprint for Water, a coalition of leading conservation groups, including Froglife.

The survey also found 97 per cent of people in England recognise that rivers, ponds, streams and lakes are a vital part of the countryside and 94 per cent of people often visit a stream, river or lake to relax or for leisure, but three-quarters feel that the water environment is at risk.

When asked, more that eight out of ten people agreed that the Government should be doing more to protect English lakes, streams, rivers and ponds, with pollution, over use of water, drought and climate change identified as some of the key threats.

Over the last two years the Blueprint for Water coalition has been urging the Government to take action to change the way we manage our water.

The coalition is calling upon the Government to make the most of the new legislation on floods and water expected this spring, as well as key decisions on water company investment and implementation of the Water Framework Directive, to protect water for the benefit of both people and wildlife across the UK.

The Blueprint for Water will publish their third document ‘2009 the time to act’ to coincide with World Water Day tomorrow (22 March).

17 March 2009

St Patrick's Day special: Irish frogs may have survived Ice Age

Irish frogs may have survived the Ice Age by retreating to a tiny ice-free refuge in Ireland, while mainland Britain’s frogs died out to be re-populated by European frogs, new research suggests.

Recent evidence has shown that Ireland's frogs differ from those of mainland Britain, shedding new light onto where frogs disappeared to when the Ice Age hit Europe over 10,000 years ago.

Research by scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Queen Mary, University of London suggests that some of the ancestors of Ireland's frogs survived the Ice Age, whereas those in the rest of the British mainland may have retreated, later to be re-populated by frogs from mainland Europe once the Ice Age was over.

The paper, in the journal Heredity, suggests that a small ice-free refuge may have existed in Ireland during the Ice Age, and here amphibians may have been able to see out the worst of the cold and ice.

Scientists found the genetic differences between Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) in mainland Britain and those of mainland Ireland while undertaking research into amphibian disease.

Lead author Dr Amber Teacher, from ZSL, said: "It appears that some frogs may have survived through the glaciations in this ice-free part of Ireland, as there is a distinct genetic lineage found in the South of Ireland that is not found elsewhere in Europe."

"So within Ireland, we can find frogs that originate from this small part of southern Ireland, mixed with the frogs that came from western Europe to repopulate the British Isles after the ice age retreated."

The work was undertaken with the help of the Irish Peatlands Conservation Council and Froglife, a UK wildlife charity for amphibians and reptiles.

"This study has given us a unique and fascinating window into the history of frogs in the British Isles." said Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Wildlife Information Officer.

Article: Teacher, AGF, Garner, TWJ, Nichols, RA (2009) European phylogeography of the common frog (Rana temporaria): routes of postglacial colonization into the British Isles, and evidence for an Irish glacial refugium. Heredity. Advance online publication.

11 March 2009

Froglife says “Just Add Water”

Pond numbers in the UK’s countryside have dropped sharply in the last century, but Just Add Water, a new campaign launched by Froglife, is hoping to help lessen the impact to Britain’s biodiversity by encouraging people to dig ponds closer to homes, in the UK’s towns and cities.

These new ponds, it is hoped, will provide new breeding places for some of the UK’s widespread amphibians, many of which are thought to be disappearing in some regions.

Some species, like the Common Frog and Smooth Newt, are known to colonise new ponds quickly if present locally. Common Toad is also known to frequent garden ponds, particular larger ones. Yet many of these species are disappearing from sites across the UK, often driven by loss of crucial breeding ponds.

The Common Toad is now listed on the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) ‘watchlist’ due to recent declines.

Just Add Water will provide information to the public on how to build ponds, through a new advice booklet and website (www.froglife.org/justaddwater).

“85% of the population have gardens, and many of these can be made frog-friendly by adding a pond.” said Daniel Piec, Froglife’s Head of Conservation. “Within months, ponds often become an oasis for local wildlife – providing feeding and breeding grounds for a host of amphibians, and many important invertebrates, mammals and birds.”

“What we’re calling for is for gardeners to put down the trowel, reach for the spade and get digging.” said Mr Piec.

The Just Add Water campaign is centred around a new booklet called ‘Just Add Water – how to build a wildlife pond’. The free booklet offers advice on a variety of subjects: from what shape to dig, how deep to go, and where to get the water, to technical advice on making ponds safe for young children.

The Just Add Water campaign is supported by a number of organisations including The Environment Agency, the UK government agency concerned mainly with flood risk and water resource management and environmental protection, but which also has a key role to play in promoting conservation of water and wetland wildlife.

Alastair Driver, the National Conservation Manager for the Agency said: “Ponds are very special places for wildlife and for people, but so many have fallen rapidly into disrepair due to bad design. The expert guidance in this excellent booklet can change all that, and we are sure it will ‘spawn’ many new frog habitats that are built to last!”

Froglife would like to thank the following organisations for their support for Just Add Water: Bridge House Trust; British Waterways; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Biodiversity Partnership Fund; Essex & Suffolk Water; Kaiser Trust – supporting the community; Natural England; Northumbrian Water; and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Get digging: www.froglife.org/justaddwater

26 February 2009

Myths exposed: “Too much spawn?”

Froglife’s enquiry service is in full flow now that the amphibian breeding season is beginning in many parts of the country. One of the most popular enquiries Froglife receives at this time of year is: “I have too much spawn...”

In some urban areas, numbers of adult Common frogs returning to ponds to breed can reach fifty or even over one hundred. Many people are surprised to hear that population fluctuations are a completely natural part of amphibian life. Sometimes even small ponds and water features are used by frogs to breed in such numbers.

Though amphibian numbers can be high in one year, in the years that follow numbers may drop sharply, as Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Wildlife Information Officer, explains:

“We often hear reports of ‘too much spawn’ at this time of year. If you find this in your garden, there is usually no reason to be concerned or to necessarily intervene.” she says. “Frogs naturally produce lots of eggs because the odds of them surviving are so low.”

An often quoted statistic says that in a frogspawn blob of, say one thousand eggs, only three or four will make it from being eggs, through to tadpoles, through metamorphosis and finally to adulthood. Where competition between individual frogs is high, this number may be lower still.

“Many amphibians around the world are known for their fluctuating populations. When conditions are good their numbers can skyrocket – but then the competition between individuals can be so intense numbers will drop in following months and years.”

“Having lots of amphibians undoubtedly increase the wildlife value of your pond, your garden and your neighbourhood, since frogs after breeding will move back into the surrounding area to eat garden invertebrates like slugs, snails, woodlice and ants. Frogs will also end up being food for other wildlife like birds, dragonfly larvae, hedgehogs, newts and even grass snakes.”

“When frogs return to garden ponds in large numbers to breed, it should be a wildlife spectacle to cherish. It may not happen again for a number of years…” Froglife's Lucy Benyon finishes.

For more frequently asked questions about frogs in gardens visit: www.froglife.org/advice.htm

9 February 2009

World's wetlands get recognition

Froglife is today attending the World Wetlands Day conference in London, organised by CIWEM-CMS.

This year's conference will look toward the future and address the issues needed to achieve conservation goals for wetlands over the next five years.

Wetlands are of significance for many amphibians, as well as for reptiles, birds, invertebrates and mammals. Human livelihoods and health are cited as inherently linked to effective wetland protection.

Water conservation is an important policy area for Froglife in 2009. Froglife lead the Standing Water Habitat Action Plan for Greater London and also for Cambridgeshire.

In addition we are also producing results on-the-ground. In the next two years Froglife is aiming to create at least 32 new ponds, and to restore more than 50 ponds, for the benefit of amphibians and reptiles (and wider biodiversity) in England and Scotland, through projects like London Living Water and Ponds in the Landscape.

4 February 2009

Toad Crossings mapped in Google Earth

The UK’s 700 ‘Toad Crossings’ have been satellite-mapped for the first time, allowing conservationists and volunteers an opportunity to discover more about nearby locations where amphibians are killed on roads on their migration to breeding ponds in spring.

Using Google Earth, members of the public can find out more about amphibian crossings locally, including information on whether the crossing is active and how many toads were rescued in spring 2008.

Froglife is encouraging new volunteers to get involved in the Toads on Roads campaign, now that the amphibian breeding season has begun in some parts of the country.

Interested members of the public can help by:

  • Helping toads cross roads at some sites (and collecting important data in the process).

  • Updating our records - informing us if toads still cross at sites registered over the past twenty years.

  • Informing us of new Toad Crossing sites – last year we registered 36 new sites.

35,183 amphibians were carried across UK roads by volunteer ‘Toad Patrollers’ in 2008, supported by ARG UK (Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK) volunteers.

To view the Google Earth map and find out more about Toads on Roads: www.froglife.org/toadsonroads

22 January 2009

Appetite for frogs’ legs increases

Scientists have called for tighter regulation and monitoring of the global frog-meat market in order to avoid species being "eaten to extinction”.

Research published in the journal Conservation Biology suggests that the global market for frog-meat appears to be rising, putting some species at risk of overexploitation in the wild, particularly in Asia.

The authors report that over 180 million frogs are harvested from wild populations each year to meet demand (largely from markets in the European Union and the United States), according to New Scientist magazine. The study examined UN data on the international trade in frogs’ legs.

The researchers propose a certification process, with monitoring and reporting systems, to ensure sustainable harvesting of frogs from the wild.

More at New Scientist

14 January 2009

New year, new ponds…

As the earliest hints of spring appear across the UK, new life is taking root in a number of special ponds created by Froglife.

Studies of these new ponds will contribute to a Froglife project that will identify how plant and animal species react to different pond management techniques.

Over two years, the ‘Second Life for Ponds’ project (funded by SITA Trust) will investigate a number of pond management techniques and compare the effect this has on a range of wildlife species. The project will compare a selection of techniques for pond clearance: from ponds cleared mechanically with diggers, to ponds where swamp vegetation has been cleared out by fleets of hard-working volunteers.

Bearded Stonewort Chara canescens and other rare stoneworts have been chosen as indicator species for the project. Other species that will be surveyed include water beetles (and other aquatic invertebrates), water voles and Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus.

“Some species are very specific about the ponds in which they can flourish, and this can affect their distribution nationally,” said Francesca Barker, Froglife’s project officer. “In some cases species can become extinct locally if certain ponds do not remain in the landscape.”

It is hoped the project will contribute to wider research on the UK’s ponds and wetlands, being undertaken by a number of wildlife organisations.

Second Life for Ponds is being carried out at Hampton Nature Reserve in Peterborough. Froglife manages Hampton Nature Reserve on behalf of landowners O&H Hampton.

For more information and photos: www.froglife.org/projects/SecondLife.htm

6 January 2009

“Let garden ponds breath easy” says amphibian charity

As the cold snap continues, Froglife -a UK wildlife charity for amphibians and reptiles- is encouraging pond-owners to consider ensuring garden ponds don’t stay iced over for too long.

Common Frogs Rana temporaria often lie dormant on the bottom of garden ponds during winter, but when ponds ice over for a sustained period they can suffocate on the noxious gases that build up in the water. In some winters, many frogs can die from this phenomenon, often termed ‘winterkill’.

Winterkill is a natural killer of frogs in cold winters. Many garden owners choose to take steps to reduce winter mortality and keep their local frog populations thriving.

The solution is simple, say Froglife: “To stop winterkill happening in your pond simply ensure that there is a hole in the ice for pond gases to escape. You can make a hole by leaving a plastic ball in the pond overnight, and removing it in the morning when the pond surface is frozen. Another idea is to leave a pan of hot water on the ice surface, and allow the base of the pan melt a hole.”

“Importantly though, never pour hot water on the pond ice, and don’t add chemicals (particularly salt), or try to shatter the ice. All of these methods can cause serious damage to pond inhabitants,” said Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Wildlife Information Officer.

In many parts of the UK, a number of amphibian species (frogs, toads, newts) are facing serious declines, largely because of the loss of ponds in the wider countryside. Urban areas have provided a crucial refuge for some species, thanks to an increase in the number of garden ponds in the last thirty years.