Cape Town -The ToadNuts’ motto is “saving a species one toad at a time”.
It’s a busy time for the green activists because its the toads’ breeding season until next month. These amphibians migrate towards freshwater ponds - the breeding sites - crossing roads where they are often become road kill.
The ToadNuts are affiliated to the Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG). They are committed to saving the endangered toads found exclusively in the low-lying coastal areas, in adjoining areas of the southern suburbs, the Cape peninsula and Stanford.
The volunteers patrol roads in Kommetjie, Noordhoek, Fish Hoek, Clovelly, Sun Valley and Milkwood Park where toads will be found walking from the gardens, where they live for 11 months of the year, toward the ponds.
Volunteers drive slowly with their headlights on, which creates a reflection off the toads’ throat, helping patrollers to identify them.
The toads are camouflaged by the chocolate to reddish-brown patches on a bright yellow background on the upper body. They are often mistaken for stones in the road.
The volunteers photograph the toads and document their size, location and sex before placing them on the pavement closest to the direction in which they had been facing. Patrol season began on Sunday, triggered by the snoring sound of the male toads’ mating call around ponds.
Co-founder of ToadNuts Suzie J’kul was one of the volunteers on duty for the first shift of the season.
“About 12 years ago, I was driving home from college one night. All of a sudden, there was a toad in the road. I didn’t know what to do, so I put it into my car. Then I found another one, and another one. I was about two minutes from my house and literally had to stop about five times (to pick up toads). I put all the toads in my garden, because I didn’t know what else to do.”
She phoned her friend Alison Faraday and they decided to begin an organisation to help the creatures.
“Alison has been instrumental in doing talks at schools and heading up volunteers in Kommetjie, Fish Hoek and Sun Valley and I have been concentrating on the Noordhoek area. The more volunteers we can get the better,” she said.
ToadNuts co-founder Faraday said: “We believe in creating a community that cares... even about the small things.”
“Property developers have created ponds alongside roads for aesthetic reasons. The toads have found these ponds and utilise them for their life cycle. This has made them more susceptible to being killed,” she said.
“We need to take care of the planet and not expect the government to do it,” Faraday added.
The greatest threat to toads are cars as well as urban obstacles, such as walls, electrified fencing, canals and new roads or developments in breeding areas.
An infiltration of non-indigenous species such as ducks, algae, fauna and flora and fish also kill or threaten the quality of the toad’s breeding habitat.
The NEAG, ToadNuts and residents have been embroiled in a dispute with the City of Cape Town over the proposed construction of a road in a wetland area in Noordhoek since 2003.
On Thursday, Chand Environmental Consultants, commissioned by the city, released its basic assessment environmental process for the proposed Phase 1 extension of Houmoed Avenue, Sunnydale.
The site earmarked for the road runs alongside three ponds, connecting the existing Houmoed Avenue to Lekkerwater Road in Masiphumelele.
Residents and activists are opposed to the plan since the proposed road will be a short cut, and therefore a busy road, linking Masiphumelele and Noordhoek.
Faraday said: “This construction will virtually obliterate the western leopard toad species in these three ponds.”
The city’s mayoral committee member for transport Felicity Purchase said: “The final assessment, undertaken by a fauna specialist, included specific focus on the potential impact of the proposed road on the toads and the breeding ponds.”
She said extensive mitigation specific to the toad and other species had been proposed. This has been included in the report.
“It was indicated that a herpetologist, faunal specialist and freshwater consultant be involved in the final design of the road and associated infrastructure and that these specialists collectively compile the requisite rehabilitation plan.”