Natterjack toadlets at Fota Wildlife Park
The natterjack toad, Epidalea calamita, is one of three amphibians found in Ireland. It is Ireland’s most endangered amphibian.
The toad is a relatively small species, with adults typically ranging from 6 to 9 centimeters in length. It has a yellowish-brown to olive-green coloration with a warty skin. One of its distinguishing features is a yellow stripe down the middle of its back, which becomes more prominent during the breeding season.
Fota Wildlife Park has been involved in the Head Starter population augmentation programme for the Natterjack Toad.
Under the programme, toad spawn from County Kerry has been transferred to both Fota Wildlife Park and Dingle Aquarium and subsequently are reared in tanks before being released back into the native habitat, following the metamorphosis into toadlets.
This approach, known as captive rearing has been shown to reduce their mortality rate to as low as 25%. Following metamorphosis, the toadlets are returned to their native Kerry.
- With the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Fota Wildlife park has to date released over 9,000 natterjack toadlets to the wild
- In 2023, around 1600 toadlets were released around their native Castlegregory, Co. Kerry into ponds which were specially created for them by local farmers
- In 2022, for the first time ever in Ireland, captive-bred toadlets which spawned at Fota Wildlife Park were released into the wild.
Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan visited Castlegregory on August 8th, 2023, to watch one of the toadlet releases and said:
“It’s wonderful to see the support and enthusiasm among the local community for the Natterjack toad. The habitat here in Castlegregory is unique and the efforts of local farmers to enhance it by creating ponds will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the fortunes of these beloved amphibians. The farmers will see benefits too through a new results-based scheme designed specifically to support these measures. I’d like to congratulate the conservation teams in the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Fota Wildlife Park, as well as the amazing community here in Kerry that is so committed to the conservation of the habitats and species that also call the Kingdom home.”
Originally native to the areas of Castlemaine Harbour and Castlegregory, the natterjack population declined over time due to land reclamation and as agricultural practices changed. The natterjack is vulnerable to a high mortality rate of 90% in the wild. The toads need access to shallow, sunny ponds to breed and avoid predators.
Conservation efforts to date have focused on the toad’s natural habitat so that the species can breed and thrive. This year’s toadlets were released on a local farm in Castlegregory, into ponds which were created just ten years ago especially for natterjacks through the NPWS Pond Creation scheme. Farmers can also now avail of new, results based farm plan scheme specifically for natterjack toads.
Sean McKeown, Director of Fota Wildlife Park said:
“We’re delighted to continue our collaboration with the NPWS on the recovery programme for the Natterjack toad. Fota is involved in 65 breeding programmes for endangered species from all over the world, but we are particularly pleased to be able to support some projects for a threatened species closer to home such as Curlew, Corncrake, and of course the Natterjack toad. This year’s release of 1,600 Natterjack toadlets will bring the total number released Fota reared toadlets to 9,000 since the head-started program began in 2016. This is a very significant contribution to the survival of Ireland’s Natterjack toads in the wild and a testament to the good will and cooperation of the NPWS, Fota Wildlife Park, the local farmers and community and Dingle Aquarium.”
Head Ranger, Willie Duffy, Intro to the Headstarter Project
Natterjack Toads Workbook
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Download our Natterjack Toad colouring sheet.
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