It’s a dark, wet, spring morning March. Hundreds of toads are shuffling across country roads, leaving the protection of the forest floor to make their way to the marshes of their birthplace to mate and lay eggs. But by avoiding birds of prey under the cover of darkness, they are massacred by rush hour traffic shortcutting through the country roads.
One morning in 2012, ninety-four smashed toads were counted on the chemin des Combes (Meinier). Shocked, KARCH-GE (an organization for the study and protection of amphibians) began erecting temporary barriers in the spring along two major roads in the communes of Meinier and Jussy. Buckets are dug into the ground where the toads, frogs and newts convene at night, then volunteers move them in the morning. This year a group of AIWC women from our Community Volunteer group helped KARCHE-GE. On several mornings at 7:30 we collected, counted and moved the amphibians safely to the marshes. Ironically, the sunny mornings were quite dull with just a few amphibians while the wet, miserable mornings produced well over a hundred little creatures!
When this project began in 2013 along the chemin des Combes, 1,096 amphibians were counted; mostly the common toad, the alpestre newt and a few beautiful palmate newts. Last year the number increased to 2,300. In this small forest, when the toads decide to move, they migrate in mass. Kitty, Melissa and I were thrilled to count 88 toads one morning but the peak morning saw over 350 amphibians! This year’s count can be found here.
Near Jussy, the route de Juvigny cuts through a forest full of frogs. Their migration is less predictable. Some years the frogs start moving as early as December so the census is not complete. The numbers jump around (no pun intended) from 578 to 1024 and then down to 292 just last year. This year’s count can be seen here.
You’re probably chuckling to yourself as you visualize volunteers in the rain and mud moving toads and newts. We were certainly entertained and posted our buckets full of croaking toads and cute newts on Facebook. But keep in mind -as we smile and laugh about catching warts- that saving toads, frogs and newts is a serious challenge with important consequences. Amphibians are key to the health of our rural environment. They eat slugs, worms and pesky insects while they are eaten by the animals we love such hedgehogs, herons, egrets, kites and hawks. So next spring when it’s raining and the toads are migrating, take a moment to first consider which roads you choose to drive and then come join us on the barriers.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/