Natterjack toadlets welcomed home to the Kingdom
Date Released: Tuesday, August 8, 2023
- A joint project between National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Fota Wildlife park has to date released over 9,000 natterjack toadlets
- This year 1600 toadlets were released around their native Castlegregory, Co. Kerry into ponds which were specially created for them by local farmers
- The weather this year has been favourable for natterjacks breeding and spawning in the wild.
Two hundred natterjack toadlets were released today (August 8th) on a farm in Castlegregory, Co. Kerry. The toadlets have been bred through a joint conservation project between the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Fota Wildlife Park which aims to protect this endangered species and work with the local farming community to return it to its natural habitat. Over 9,000 toadlets have been released since the project began seven years ago.
Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan visited Castlegregory to watch the release 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.
This conservation project involves NPWS staff collecting spawn and eggs from ponds, which are brought to Fota Wildlife Park where they are cared for and reared in special holding tanks. 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.
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.”
Today’s release brings the number of toadlets released in Co. Kerry this year to 1600. Speaking about the project, Dr Ferdia Marnell from the NPWS said:
“Unlike last year, this year the weather has worked in favour of the natterjack, with a wet spring followed by warm temperatures in June. We saw the successful metamorphosis of toadlets in high numbers around Castlegregory. This is good news for a boom or bust species like the natterjack. We hope to see this year’s toadlets return here to breed over the coming years and reclaim their former home.”