History of Toad Breeding Migration: How it informs us about the state of the aquatic and terrestrial environments

« When the toads sing, the good weather is coming » French proverb 

 And precisely, why do we hardly hear them anymore ?!

Why talk about toads in the middle of a pandemic ?

Because precisely, if we had listened and taken care of the amphibians and our wildlife, we might not have got to this point ! I know, it sounds crazy. Batrachians, in addition to being extraordinary, tell us about the state of our aquatic environments AND our terrestrial environments. If we had taken more time to think about our human development, while considering the place of these « little beasts » in our ecosystems, we could have realized that man and animal must live together. One cannot dominate the other. We must be able to live side by side.

And to start the week, I invite you to go on a report with Romain Espeisse, the regional Delegate of ASPAS Eure-et-Loir, who makes us live this incredible nuptial migration of toads. A journey which, most of the time, turns out dangerous, since they leave their wintering site to go to reproduce 
 Romain will also present us the positive ways to act towards the toads! To learn more, please click here.  

When a pond suffers eutrophication * (too much seeweeds, too many plants in a natural environment which prevent the sun’s rays from passing through, the water is depleted in oxygen (hypoxia), then living beings die), it is a whole ecosystem that is disappearing. The population of toads can no longer reproduce, their predators have no food, so they are forced to move closer to areas inhabited by humans.

Certainly, like us human beings, animals have pathogenic agents that live in them. We all have germs. But it is the transmission of specific to animals microbes to humans that is fatal to us today.

How did we get here ?

– Deforestation

has in particular caused diseases transmitted by mosquitoes * carrying malaria (Katarina Zimmer, « Deforestation tied to changes in disease dynamics », The Scientist, New York, January 29, 2019). Human pathogens are twice as numerous in deforested areas as in forests that remain intact. Or the example of migratory birds => loss of habitats, human intervention through hunting which destabilizes the ecosystem.

– Urbanization

by reducing habitats, we have pushed animals to seek their food close to humans (contact). We are eliminating a number of species that had their places in the food chain, such as the possum (small carnivorous marsupial of mosquitoes and in particular ticks).

– Unrestrained industrialization

To satisfy his carnivorous appetite, man has shaved an area equivalent to that of the African continent, in order to feed and raise animals for slaughter * (George Monbiot, « There’s population crisis all right . But probably not the one you think « , The Guardian, November 19, 2015). Industrial farming, which keeps animals in confined spaces, generates the easy multiplication of microbes that mutate into deadly pathogens, for example, avian flu.

So obviously, humans are to blame and not the wild animal that is the source of this coronavirus (Covid-19). And at the same time, by being all responsible, we can all take our responsibilities and do our part, like the hummingbird of Pierre Rabhi.

Click here to access to the Françoise Serre-Collet fascinating « large format » interview. She is THE specialist in France for reptiles and amphibians.

What to do ?

– Participation in the construction of fences for toads and in the collection of toads,

– Create a small pond in your garden and do not add fishes in it,

– Support field associations.

And the solutions are accessible to all ! Romain Espeisse and Françoise Serre-Collet both explain the importance of taking care of wild habitats. It is possible to reverse the trend.

As Romain Espeisse, a naturalist, so rightly says, « I think that in a few years, we will have another vision of all these animals and they will be protected and cherished rather than persecuted ». Nature and animal life must be set up as priority values.

Pauline Rouillé

Acknowledgments: To Romain, for having kindly alarmed me about the need to communicate on this subject, for inviting me to go to the field and for his contagious passion for wild animals. To Mya, for her commitment to finding the most beautiful specimens in reproduction! To Françoise, for having devoted her time to the National Museum of Natural History, in order to rehabilitate « these extraordinary beasts » as she calls them, and thus to consider them as animals which must be taken care of in order to give them all the space that should be theirs.

Go further :


Françoise Serre-Collet books :

« Sur la piste des reptiles et des amphibiens – Serpents, grenouilles, lĂ©zards
 : Serpents, grenouilles, lĂ©zards
, sachez les reconnaĂźtre », 2013 (publiĂ©s en partenariat avec le MusĂ©um national d’histoire naturelle)

« Grenouilles, crapauds & Cie : Parlez-moi d’anoures  », 2017

« Salamandres, tritons & Cie », 2019

Sources : 

« D’oĂč viennent les coronavirus ? Contre les pandĂ©mies, l’écologie », par Sonia Shah, Le Monde diplomatique _ Mars 2020

« J’aime les amphibiens ! » document ASPAS