Froglife Toad Summit 2018
On the 19th June herpetologists from all over Europe travelled to Peterborough for Froglife’s 2018 ‘Toad Summit’. The driving force behind this one day meeting was a recently published scientific paper based on decades of painstakingly collected toad patrol data, demonstrating that the common toad has declined in the UK by 68% over the past 30 years. This is of course very startling, and appears to have happened under everybody’s noses. Whilst there are number of reasons for this decline, I think Jules Howard hit the nail on the head in his very personal talk as he spoke about common amphibian and reptile species often being overlooked in terms of conservation. This is particularly true for when an area is being developed, particularly in relation to habitat connectivity (especially joining up ponds and terrestrial habitat!), it is usually only the rare and listed species that a developer is worried about. Perhaps we should rename the common toad to the uncommon toad and lobby for some additional legal protection to help them recover to their former levels.
There was a number of great talks throughout the day but in my opinion, the best talk of the day was that given by none other than Tariq Stark of RAVON. Tariq’s talk was on a topic which thankfully doesn’t affect many British toads, but is common in the Netherlands, and that potential threat is toad fly. It was quite a gory presentation and placed just after lunch which made it even more fun (maybe not for everyone). The causal agent is a species of fly (Lucilia bufonivora) which lays its eggs on the bodies of live toads. The flies are a kind of green bottle that I’m sure we’re all familiar with. After the eggs hatch, the maggots migrate to the nasal cavities of the toads where they start to eat the flesh and soft tissue of the head of the toad. All of this happens whilst the toad is still alive and the results can be pretty gruesome, some of the photos Tariq displayed were quite effective at showing this. In the Netherlands the flies seems to like sites with sandy soils, their distribution in the UK isn’t well known, so further reports and specimens are needed to fully understand this. If you find evidence of toads with toad fly, then please do submit them to the Garden Wildlife Health Project. In all, the event was very enjoyable but I don’t feel it went far enough to address the issues that have caused the declines of toads in the UK.