Operation: toad rescue

First and second-year trainee animal keepers at Tierpark Berlin recently undertook a challenging task: to give a group of European green toads who got trapped on a nearby construction site a new home in the lush expanses of the Tierpark. These toads complete their various stages of development extremely quickly – and our trainees have witnessed the full metamorphosis. This blog entry reveals more about the exciting project.

The art of disguise

Green, speckled and slimy – at first glance, the European green toad might look like any other toad. But if you observe the amphibian for long enough, you come to realise it has a very special skill: it can change colour to blend in with its surroundings. The European green toad is a very small toad species. It belongs to the Bufonidae (true toad) family, which is in the class of amphibians – creatures that live both on land and in water. As is the case with all toads, the skin of the green toad is covered with warty glands. This is an important distinction between toads and their close relatives, frogs.

Toad migration

In Germany, the European green toad is a rare and highly endangered species. The toads are suffering from the continual loss of suitable spawning waters and from their preferred spawning habitats being increasingly robbed of direct sunlight. This native toad species is particularly impacted by the cultivation or redevelopment of fallow land as well as by urban development of its preferred habitats.

By chance, members of this toad species were recently found languishing on a building site in Berlin’s Lichtenberg district. Tierpark Berlin took in the confused critters and placed them in quarantine. The idea quickly arose to give these endangered toads a new home right here in Europe’s largest animal park. The Tierpark offers the rare amphibians ideal breeding conditions, with plenty of the warm and sunny spots that they love. The hope is that they will go forth and multiply into a much larger population.

Learning by doing

Volunteers were quick to come forward and take on the responsibility of looking after and eventually releasing the toads. The task was assumed by ten trainee keepers in their first and second year of training. While cleaning, caring for and feeding the toads, the trainees got to know the particular preferences of these small amphibians. After 30 days, the keepers had learned that the toads love the warmth, do not like waterlogged soil, prefer their water to be at around 23°C, and only allow themselves to be touched by gloved hands. Direct skin contact is a definite no-no! They also like a clean terrarium, and their required diet varies according to their stage of development.

The tadpoles feed on water fleas and fish flakes; the fully developed young toads – adorably known as “toadlets” – eat micro-crickets; and the adult toads feast on larger crickets. After 30 days of tender loving care, the fully grown green toads can be released in the extensive grounds of the Tierpark.

Species conservation at Tierpark Berlin

The toad project is one example of how Tierpark Berlin is not only committed to preserving biodiversity abroad, in locations as far-flung as Mongolia, Mallorca and the Alps – it also helps protect threatened species here at home.

Jennifer Bartsch, Vanessa Buchwald, Til Burkert, Nicole Straatmann, Agnetha Weinbrenner, Lukas Dentel, Alina Horn, Tobias Jung, Caroline Klein, Shannon Münch, Obertierpfleger Michael Horn

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