The common spadefoot toad (Pelobates fuscus) is one of the most endangered amphibian species in the Netherlands and faces the threat of extinction. In Dutch, the toad's name is knoflookpad, or 'garlic toad', which refers to the garlic-smelling scent that it secretes through its skin when it senses danger. The threat of extinction is a result of various factors, including the isolation of populations for many years due to fragmentation and the loss of suitable habitats (biotopes). Measures have been taken in recent years to improve the common spadefoot toad's habitat. Even so, the species is unable to recover on its own to the point where it no longer has 'threatened' status.
In 2012, ARTIS joined forces with RAVON, the non-governmental organisation for the conservation of reptiles, amphibians and fish in the Netherlands, to draw up a rescue plan for the common spadefoot toad and implement it. The plan started with RAVON collecting hundreds of egg strings from spadefoot toads in different wildlife areas in the Netherlands. The zookeepers at ARTIS are responsible for raising the egg strings. Keeping and caring for common spadefoot toads requires a lot of time and a safe and healthy habitat in order to keep the toads healthy and strong. RAVON subsequently released the tadpoles or young toads in three areas in the North Brabant province in the Netherlands.
In 2012, over 10,000 late-stage tadpoles were released into the wild. In 2013, the number increased to 35,000; in 2014, more than 8,500 were released; and in 2015, the number exceeded 26,000. The last group of endangered common spadefoot toads was released in North Brabant in 2016. The five-year project was subsequently introduced in the Dutch province of Drenthe, where tadpoles will continue to be released in the years ahead.
The goal is to trigger a development in the habitats in the wild within 10 years that will ensure that strong populations of common spadefoot toads capable of surviving on their own and reproducing emerge within 20 years. Common spadefoot toads have been heard calling in these areas in springtime from 2014 onward. This is a promising sign. The common spadefoot toad undergoes a three-month metamorphosis from toad egg string to tadpole to young toad and reaches sexual maturity within two to three years.
Organisation: Stichting RAVON
Animal: common spadefoot toad
Location: The Netherlands (Noord-Brabant)