It’s mid-winter and some of the peninsula’s residents are in their element.
It won’t be long before the Western Leopard Toads start heading to their local gathering places for the annual breeding season. But many will have to travel several kilometres and cross busy roads, and many won’t make it back home.
The biggest recorded population of leopard toads (Amietophrynus pantherinus) are found in urban areas on the Cape Peninsula, but are increasingly being threatened by urbanisation.
Most of their known breeding and foraging habitats are outside protected areas, and in Cape Town they breed in public open spaces, green belts and golf courses.
They are also often encountered in surrounding gardens, which are important foraging areas and sanctuaries.
But development, traffic and associated threats put the long-term survival of the local population at risk.
“The International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List classifies the Western Leopard Toad as an endangered species.
“Busy roads are death traps and this animal needs all the help it can get to survive,” says Alison Faraday, one of the founders of Toad Nuts (Noordhoek Unpaid Toad Savers) and its subsidiary, Spots (South Peninsula Outstanding Toad Savers).
For years volunteers from Noordhoek, Muizenberg, Lakeside, Kirstenhof and Tokai, have regularly ventured out to help the toads reach their watery breeding sites and get back home safely once the breeding season is over.
The toads are “explosive breeders”, which means that breeding is restricted to short, sporadic bursts of activity, lasting up to a week at a time.
Breeding usually takes place during August but has also been recorded in late July and in September. The start of the season seems to depend on rainfall and temperature and sometimes occurs during warmer spells following periods of rain.
The first indication is when large numbers of adult toads appear after dark, particularly on rainy nights, and converge on breeding ponds. The same sites tend to be used year after year.
The males call in bouts and in choruses of up to 50, but as many as 200 males have been heard chorusing at a large breeding site such as De Oog in Bergvliet.
The tadpoles then develop into 11mm long toadlets that leave the water from November to January in their thousands.
During last year’s breeding season, thousands of toads reached the breeding grounds, and volunteers helped about 1 800 of them to reach their mates, a big improvement on previous years.
Susan Wishart of KirMiTS (Kirstenhof to Muizenberg Toad Savers) asked that drivers drive more cautiously in these areas to avoid killing the toads.
Toad Nuts will present their annual volunteer training at Cape Point Vineyards in Noordhoek at 5.30pm on July 22. Call Alison on 082 771 6232. Visit www.LeopardToad.co.za.