The Slovenia Times

Helping frogs cross the road

Environment & Nature
Frogs. Photo: East News/STA

Frogs and other amphibians are at particular risk at this time of year as they migrate en masse to their spawning grounds, often across dangerous roads. Luckily, volunteers are there to help them.

Each spring, several hundred volunteers across Slovenia save thousands of frogs' lives by helping them to their breeding grounds and back every night during the spawning season.

One such location is in the village of Boreci in the northeastern Pomurje region, where volunteers have been giving a hand to frogs for 12 years running.

This year, frogs ventured out on their journey across the dangerous road early, around 10 February, one of the volunteers, Vesna Kitthiya, has told a Slovenian Press Agency journalist who joined the campaign.

A month on, they are halfway through mating and volunteers have carried across more than 10,600 amphibians in buckets.

Kitthiya, who has been with the campaign from the start, has created a Facebook page to raise public awareness about the importance of frogs and amphibians, and to attract new volunteers.

Muddy and wet job

"Sometimes new people would join, sometimes someone comes just once, because it's not a neat job and not really fun either. The frogs are keenest to cross the road when it rains, so you get wet and muddy.

"But the most important thing is to rescue most of them; unfortunately, we can't save them all," Kitthiya says.

Frog activists in Boreci set a record of sorts in mid-February, carrying 1,850 frogs and other amphibians in buckets across the road in a single evening.

Kitthiya says they established an absolute record two years ago, helping 3,000 amphibians in a matter of a few hours.

Common toads predominate, but there are also some common brown frogs and newts, although there are fewer of those than in previous years. They help them on a 700-metre stretch of the municipal road in Boreci.

Single car can kill dozens

In Pomurje, amphibians also cross the roads to their breeding grounds in large numbers in Lutverci, Podgradje, Petanjci and by two lakes - Lake Ledavsko and Blaguš.

"I started this work more than a decade ago because I feel sorry for every animal that is run over, but here it happens in large numbers. It is cruel if people don't take action even when they see there's something wrong with the environment, nature or the animals.

"If we don't act on things that indicate the quality of our environment - which amphibians do - we cannot say that we care about our children," says Kitthiya.

The campaigns rely on volunteers and sometimes municipalities would help as well. The Križevci municipality, which includes Boreci, has contributed foil for frog barriers.

The barriers stop them, but they still have to be carried across the road to their spawning grounds.

When the volunteers asked for more frequent speed controls on this part of the road to make drivers slow down a bit, they fell on deaf ears, Kitthiya says.

"Drivers have a low level of awareness about amphibians. This has improved a little in ten years, but still, a single car can run over dozens of them."

Hundreds of volunteers

Nation-wide, the Centre for Fauna and Flora Cartography is trying to help amphibians on a systemic level. Working at this private institution, Katja Poboljšaj is a biologist who has been working with amphibians for the past 30 years.

She says they are using web-based solutions to raise awareness. They have set up an information centre and a website for amphibian conservation to connect all those involved in amphibian conservation in Slovenia.

"We provide expert support and try to gather as much information as possible in one place and establish contacts with institutions, parks, volunteers," Poboljšaj says.

One partner in the project is the Infrastructure Agency. When national roads are built, the agency sees to it that they include solutions for amphibians, such as underpasses and permanent fences.

These are currently being put up at two road sections in the Ljubljana Marshes, the Radensko Polje landscape park southeast of Ljubljana and in the regional conservation area Kozjansko Park in the east.

There are 28 locations across Slovenia where more than 1,000 amphibians cross the road on a given stretch and therefore need help, Poboljšaj says.

Last year, more than 730 volunteers carried amphibians safely across at these locations, helping a total of more than 79,000 amphibians to their spawning grounds.

Kitthiya is happiest when children come to help. One evening children from the higher grades of the Bakovci Primary School joined them, and a 2nd grade pupil from the Križevci Primary School often helps out as well.

The Žverca Association has produced a map of selected locations in Slovenia where amphibians are at risk with information about campaigns and places where amphibians have been spotted on the road but no one has helped them yet.


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