Warning, Toad Block: Hundreds of Amphibians Close Road in Richmond


Migrating toads have forced the council to close a Richmond road, as volunteers dedicate hours to saving them from traffic and drains.


By Peter Apps

Migrating toads have forced the council to close a Richmond road, as volunteers dedicate hours to saving them from traffic and drains.

A 400m stretch of Church Lane, between Latchmere Lane and Ham Park Avenue, is closed to traffic until April 2 to protect the amphibians while they travel to mating ponds.

And volunteers are arriving at the site most evenings to carry out ‘toad patrols’, picking the creatures out of gutters and transporting them safely to a nearby pond.

Highways engineer, Jon Fray, 43, who leads the patrol, said: “It’s a lovely feeling to save them. They are so close to reproducing it feels like a real tragedy if they don’t make it.

“We get retired people, families with children and just local people who want to get involved. It’s a real community event.”

He says the patrol started when his girlfriend, nurse Dianne Slater, saw the dead toads on her way home from work.

“She just got sick and tired of seeing so many dead animals. I used to go out with her with a torch, and eventually we contacted the council, and it developed from there,” he said.

He says patrols can find 60 toads on a mild night during the migration, with a record haul of 113.

Volunteers have saved 302 toads this year with more expected to migrate as the weather becomes milder.

Toads come out of hibernation in early spring, and journey to ponds in order to mate and lay eggs.

Doctor John Wilkinson, 41, Research Officer for Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), said: “Road traffic is a big danger for toads when they are migrating.

“It’s completely senseless for them to be run over by cars, it’s avoidable and damaging and it has a dramatic effect on individual areas.”

The toads mate in the ponds they were born in throughout their lives, following the same migratory route every year.

There are 900 patrols nationwide, but Richmond’s is one of only three active sites in London .

A spokesman for the London Wildlife Trust said: “Evidence suggests UK toad populations are declining.

“Many die when they are making the journey across roads to find breeding ponds.”

Richmond Council introduced the road closure in 2010 last year, saving 388 toads with only 14 known ‘losses’.

Mr Fray says some toads have died this year, as a result of cyclists and motorcyclists continuing to use the closed road.

There has been some opposition from motorists, who resent having to make longer journeys.

But Mr Fray said: “You get a lot of people saying they’ve never seen a toad round here, but they forget that toads are nocturnal animals, so you never get to see them in the day.

“It’s something else which makes taking part in the patrol so interesting.”

To volunteer for a toad patrol, e-mail trees&[email protected] or telephone Lucy Benyon of Toads on Roads on 01733 558844.

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