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Home News South Peninsula residents need to act now to protect the Leopard Toad

South Peninsula residents need to act now to protect the Leopard Toad

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City of Cape Town Media Release – 23 February 2016

The discovery of the invasive guttural toad in Noordhoek has set off alarm bells in conservation circles. This invasive toad has been found on a property near Seascape Road. Noordhoek is one of the most important traditional breeding areas of the endemic and endangered western leopard toad (Sclerophrys pantherinus), a close relative of the guttural toad (Sclerophrys gutturalis). 

Guttural toads and leopard toads look very similar to the untrained eye, and the identification of eggs and tadpoles (which look almost identical even to professionals) is particularly difficult.

‘These species do not co-exist naturally and this situation may cause several complications. These may include competition for food, predation, and the introduction of external diseases and pathogens. Hybridisation could also be a potential threat.

‘Following this early detection of the guttural toads in Noordhoek, there must be a rapid response by conservation authorities, the Invasive Species Unit and residents. If all the individuals, tadpoles and eggs can be found during this early stage of the invasion, guttural toads can be removed from Noordhoek completely.

‘The survival of the endemic western leopard toad depends on access to uninvaded breeding grounds such as Noordhoek. The advance of the guttural toad must therefore be stopped before guttural toads become established and form a viable breeding population in Noordhoek.

‘Once the invasion of guttural toads into Noordhoek is past the early detection and rapid response stage, control becomes extremely challenging and expensive. This can be seen in Constantia, where an intensive five-year-old control programme has been unable to stop the spread of guttural toads into Bishopscourt.

‘Conserving our biodiversity is absolutely key to the sustainable future that we are trying to create,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.

Although the guttural toad is indigenous to South Africa, it does not naturally occur in the Western Cape.

Invasive species such as the guttural toad are introduced to areas outside their natural range either deliberately or accidentally. The likely scenario for an accidental introduction is that nursery plants were moved from the area where guttural toads naturally occur to Cape Town. Once they arrived at their new habitat, they reproduced and established the colonies that are now invading many water bodies in Constantia and Bishopscourt.

It could also be the case that well-meaning residents who do not want to harm animals, but also don’t want them in their gardens, physically relocate toads to natural areas around the city. This is a highly problematic practice and causes havoc for nature conservation officials. It is not just the frogs themselves that can create problems, but the diseases and parasites that accompany the frogs may cause further environmental harm. 

The most effective method of managing invasive species is to prevent them from being introduced to areas outside their natural distribution range in the first place.

The City’s service provider, NCC Environmental Services, who currently run the guttural control programme in Constantia, will now also focus on the Noordhoek area. 

NCC will also work closely with Toad Nuts, a local group formed to protect and save the western leopard toad.

Residents are urged to listen for the distinctive guttural toad call and to report the occurrence immediately by sending an e-mail to Gutturaltoad@ncc-group.co.za 

The City also asks residents never to move any toad, tadpole or eggs between water bodies.

How to distinguish between the two toads:

 

Guttural toad

Western leopard toad

 By call

Deep, guttural, pulsed snore. Superficially resembling the bounces of a dropped Ping-Pong ball. During breeding season, usually September to February  

By call: long drawn-out snore in the evening or on overcast days. During breeding season in spring, usually August to October

 By sight

Colour: light to dark brown with pairs of darker brown patches, smaller scattered spots sometimes occur between the larger patches;

Brown line down the back: sometimes;

Between the eyes: pale prominent cross formed by two sets of dark brown patches

Colour: striking symmetrical dark red-brown markings, edged in black and yellow;

Yellow line down the back: Usually;

Between the eyes: dark patch, not forming a cross

Underside

Dirty white colour

Whitish colour

Thighs

Red infusion

No red infusion

 

Media enquiries:

Councillor Johan van der Merwe, Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning, City of Cape Town,

Tel: 021 400 3794 or Cell: 076 234 3114,

E-mail: Johannes.VanDerMerwe@capetown.gov.za (please always copy media.account@capetown.gov.za)

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