Save Mr Toad! For Natagora, breeding season begins

Natagora volunteer in action
Natagora volunteer in action

24/02/2021. It’s breeding season once again. Since time immemorial, as the sweetness of spring approaches, the same ritual has been repeated throughout the European countryside. Thoughts turn to renewal and the coming generation. And in Spring also, the thoughts of the good people of Natagora turn to road safety.

No, Natagora is not a tiny European republic shrouded in mystery and romance. It could well be, but it is in fact an organisation, one dedicated to the safe continuance of a custom vital to the animal world since time immemorial – the prenuptual migrations.

In Belgium, the frogs, toads and newts are beginning their great breeding migrations. The amphibians emerge from their winter torpor to undertake a perilous journey. The purpose of the journey is simple; to give life. But to achieve their goal, these animals have to overcome several obstacles, many of which will cost the lives of the less fortunate.

At the same time therefore, the volunteers of Natagora leave the comfort of their homes each night to act as shepherds, guarding the roads at key crossing points in order to give these animals the best chance of survival in an often ruthless modern world.

Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders inhabit the ponds and forests. Their names are well known, but their lives remain a mystery to many of us. Yet these lives deserve attention, being good indicators of the state of health of the environment. Amphibians can be among the first to suffer the impact of polluting and destructive human activities.

Save Mr Toad! photo by Louis Bronne
Save Mr Toad! photo by Louis Bronne

The annual prenuptial migrations are a pivotal period for these animals; a time when they are particularly exposed. When night-time temperatures reach 7 ° C, the males and females leave their winter quarters to reach the breeding ponds. They perform this migration more or less intensely depending on the weather conditions; the rain in particular is a good starting signal. They can continue it until the beginning of April.

But these journeys often cross busy main roads, and many animals are run over by fast-passing cars. The job of the Natagora volunteers, therefore, is to stand ready with buckets, safety vests and flashlights at the key road-crossing points of the migration routes, and each evening help the animals to cross the road.

This year, once again, the association is urging motorists to take extra care near crossing-warning signs or when they see active volunteers at the side of the road. In the presence of amphibians or volunteers in action, they ask drivers to limit their speed to 30 km/h. Above this point, the animals can be sucked into the car’s wake and die.

Natagora volunteers have to undergo compulsory registration in order to comply with national regulations. But they do their job night after night without reward, because they believe what they are doing is important for the natural world. More power to their elbows! Or perhaps, Vive le coude Belge!

With thanks to the good people of Natagora.

More info: (in French)

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