Volunteer to save a toad?

Image above: Clare Arnold at work in Chiswick Business Park; photograph by Joanne Gilbert

Toads, newts and more need saving from drains in Chiswick Business Park

The wildlife preservation group Wild Chiswick is calling for volunteers to help rescue amphibians living in Chiswick Park. While it is primarily a place of business with 12 large office blocks housing some of the biggest global companies, it is also beautifully landscaped around a two-tier lake and waterfall, home to a diverse range of urban wildlife including common toads and smooth newts.

The lake provides an ideal breeding ground for these amphibious creatures, but the presence of the other occupants of the park: humans, with their buildings, car parks, and concrete structures, disrupts their natural migratory routes. They get run over by cars and fall into the drains in the park and can’t get out again.

Images above: Toad in the hole, and toads in a bucket; photographs by Clare Arnold

The London Wildlife Trust (LWT) was alerted to this issue when a concerned park worker raised the alarm. Since then, a yearly rescue mission has taken place during spring.

This year the charge of managing the rescue patrol has been taken up by dedicated volunteer Clare Arnold, supported by John Salisbury, Chair of the London Amphibian and Reptile Group (LARG), and ecologist Sivi Sivanesan. With a group of volunteers from LARG they scour the park’s drains and car parks, finding and saving the trapped amphibians.

Images above: Newt in a car park, newt rescue; photographs by Sivi Sivanesan

“We need to protect them”

The plight of these creatures continues beyond spring and Clare, John, and Sivi’s operations have extended into the summer months. Their combined efforts have resulted in the successful rescue of an additional 280 animals this year alone, bringing the total rescues for 2023 to an impressive 665, showing how significant their rescue efforts have become.

During a recent operation, to the dismay of volunteers, amphibian remains were found within drains where trapped animals had met an untimely demise. The volunteers have meticulously documented their findings, creating a comprehensive map of the danger zones where animals are most susceptible to entrapment.

Images above: Bones of trapped animals, a newt on some pebbles; photographs by Sivi Sivanesan

Wild Chiswick’s Joanne Gilbert said:

“Amphibians in the UK are in decline, especially the common toad. It is therefore important that we do everything we can to help them survive. One reason for this decline is habitat fragmentation, which is one of the main problems they face at Chiswick business park, along with the hazard of being trapped in drains, run over or trodden on.

“Amphibians are an important part of a healthy ecosystem and we need to protect them. If you can come along and help with rescues at the Business Park, LARG, LWT and WildChiswick would be most grateful.  If you can’t – then consider putting a pond in your garden, along with some rock and log piles, for amphibians to hide from predators and heat, gather insects for food, and use for hibernation”.

By expanding the team, Wild Chiswick hope more drains and car parks can be covered consistently, and result in the saving of a greater number of animals and a deeper understanding of their movements.

Those interested should email Wild Chiswick at hello@wildchiswick.com.

Image above: Sivi Sivanesan and Clare Arnold at work; Photograph Joanne Gilbert

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