The elusive toadlets of the Endangered Western Leopard Toad are being recorded and counted at the Clovelly Country Club Golf Course for the first time. Determined to understand when, where and how many toadlets emerge from popular Leopard Toad breeding ponds on the golf course the Clovelly Golf Course Manager is working with local conservationists to monitor the metamorphosis of the tadpoles and to record their emergence as toadlets.
Princely Toads start out as delicate Toadlets.
It is almost three months since the last hopeful male Leopard Toad stopped calling for a mate at the water features on the Clovelly golf course. The offspring of the successful pairs have grown from inky black tadpoles to tiny toadlets with tails. The delicate toadlets are small enough to fit on your thumb nail, a surprise considering the bulk of an adult which is larger than your fist!
The tadpole’s survival strategy is based on safety in numbers. The females lay thousands of eggs and during the slow metamorphosis from hatchlings to toadlets, the tadpoles throng together in the shallows and feed on algae. While growing legs, lungs and toad tongues for eating insects, many become prey of natural predators including fish, platanna frogs, dragonfly larvae, egret, hadeda ibis and water snakes. By mid November the surviving tadpoles are toadlets with a stubby remnant tail. They congregate around the damp verges of the water features getting ready for their rite of passage to toadhood. Adult Leopard Toads lead a solitary life except for the annual mating season.
Historical accounts in the South Peninsula describe toadlets emerging en mass from the
vegetated edges of ponds and wetlands in rainy weather. The closely mown fairways of the Clovelly Country Club should make it easy to witness the annual toadlet emergence, but no one has ever reported seeing toadlets here! Perhaps the golf course toadlets are not rain dependant!! The nightly irrigation may provide them with the opportunity of migrating individually or in small batches when they are ready? Monitoring of the breeding cycle at the golf course over a number of years makes it reasonable to assume that Leopard Toads are breeding successfully, but when, where and how many toadlets emerge from the breeding ponds remains a mystery. A mystery that needs to be solved given that the continued survival of Western Leopard Toads depends on new generations of toadlets.
Barrier Fence with traps to monitor Toadlets at the Clovelly Clubhouse Pond.
This summer the Clovelly Golf Course super-intendant Steven Webber is determined to record toadlet emergence at Clovelly. With the support the City of Cape Town Conservation Manager Dalton Gibbs and LT co-ordinator for Clovelly Kim Kruyshaar a pilot project to monitor the toadlets is being implemented. A temporary catch barrier with pit traps has been placed around the small pond immediately below the club house.
The aim of the barrier is to funnel toadlets leaving the pond into catch pits so they can be counted and then immediately released. The fence and pit system is working well. To date the highest daily count removed from the traps is 32 toadlets at the test pond providing verifiable evidence of successful breeding. We are happy with this result given that only 1 mating toad pair was recorded at this pond. Originally, the pilot project was to include a similar barrier fence around a large water feature on the 14th Fairway which has high numbers of breeding toads each year. However the Silvermine River which flows alongside the golf course has flooded the water features on the 14th fairway three times this year. 2013 has been one of the wettest winters on record and the `flushing’ of the ponds by the swollen Silvermine River occurred at crucial times in the breeding cycle. This has unfortunately compromised the breeding success at these water features and made them unsuitable for toadlet monitoring in 2013.
On behalf of the Endangered Leopard Toads and Western Cape Leopard Toad conservation, I would like to thank the Clovelly Country Club and especially Steven Webber for their active interest in and support for the conservation of the Leopard Toads of the golf course. Thank you also to Dalton Gibbs of the City of Cape Town who continues to provide insight and advice about how best to monitor the toadlets. The findings of the Leopard Toadlet Monitoring Project are being recorded and will be written up and presented to the LT Conservation Committee as well as to the Endangered Wild Life Trust of South Africa. For more information or a copy of the report, contact Kim
Kim Kruyshaar 21 November 2013
Clovelly Co-Ordinator Leopard Toad Conservation