Toad-spying app to avoid roadkill

2015-07-28 13:58


A mobile app has been created to help gather information on the endangered Western Leopard Toad in the Cape peninsula.

A mobile app has been created to help gather information on the endangered Western Leopard Toad in the Cape peninsula.

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The Toadnuts, a conservation group working to save the endangered Western Leopard Toad in the Cape Peninsula, have launched a mobile app and website to collect, monitor and store important data about this flagship species.

Rainy nights in August and September signal the breeding season for the peninsula’s endangered Western Leopard Toad. This is when the toads migrate to a pond or dam to reproduce. Large female toads arrive heavy with eggs, while the males wait on the banks ready to fertilise her eggs during this annual rendezvous.

The problem is that the toads have to cross busy roads to get to these breeding areas, and many get run over by cars.

Each female toad carries about 1000 eggs, but scientists estimate that only one out of a thousand eggs successfully reaches adulthood.

RoadkillIn 2007 two Noordhoek residents, Alison Faraday and Suzie Jirachareonkul, founded the Toadnuts when they realised how many animals were being killed on roads every night.

Jirachareonkul says: “Toadnut volunteers try to save the toads from being run over on these rainy nights by driving around looking for toads, and then carrying the toads across the road. In that process the volunteers also collect data from every toad they find, photographing the specimen and logging relevant information about it.”

With this year’s toad season imminent, the Toadnuts have launched a new mobile application that will help volunteers to easily capture information about the endangered toad.

It also stores the information so that it can easily be retrieved for scientific use. The app, called “Toadnuts”, allows people to photograph, measure, define the sex and attach GPS coordinates to the location of the toad on their cellphones, sending this information to the Toadnuts database the next time the phone is connected to Wi-Fi.

“Previously we had to manually capture data; this app makes things a lot quicker and more accurate. This is important as we don’t want to hold up the toad for too long, and we want to ensure we get the correct information. It’s easy to use and thanks to the convenience, I’m sure we’ll get better data than ever,” says Jirachareonkul.

“Our priority is to save the toads, but thanks to our data collection we have been able to contribute to the scientific data and research about the Western Leopard Toad,” she says.

The Western Leopard Toad is a flagship species on the peninsula, and monitoring its well-being is a good indication of how other species are doing in the area. This promotes the conservation of other species like frogs, genets and porcupines.

UnderpassesUltimately, Faraday and Jirachareonkul and their team of Toadnuts are working towards building underpasses – “highways” under the roads that toads can use to cross roads safely on their own.

“The stats we have collected to date, and the information we will collect and store from our new app going forward, will support our campaign to obtain funding and obtain permission from the authorities for these toad underpasses. This is the legacy we’d like to leave our children,” says Faraday.

V

Download the Toadnuts app on your iPhone or Android phone. For more information visit www.toadnuts.co.za or call Faraday on 082 771 6232 or Jira­cha­reonkul on 082 476 1016

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