Green Toads of Öland

At the moment I’m in Sweden, visiting my good friend and colleague Claes Andrén, Scientific Director at Norden’s Ark. It’s been a wonderful week experiencing the wild nature of Sweden, and the visit has also provided an important opportunity for us to progress our collaborative conservation initiative ‘Project Lemur Frog‘.


Green Toad, Bufo viridis, Sweden (c) Andrew Gray, 2014

During part of the week I’ve also had the chance to join Claes and his team travelling across Sweden to Öland, a wonderful large island situated in the Baltic Sea and joined to mainland Sweden by a 6Km long bridge. The trip was a very important one, as the special habitat found in Öland is the last place in Sweden suitable for the native Green Toad, Bufo viridis.

The captive breeding and re-introduction of this toad by Norden’s Ark highlights their commitment to working with local communities and supporting the conservation and protection of native flora and fauna, something clearly as important to them as the wonderful support they provide to the many threatened species across the globe.

Öland is a very special place and the dominant environmental feature of the island is the Stora Alvaret, a limestone pavement which is the habitat of numerous rare and endangered species. It is also now a World Heritage Site.

New ponds created especially for green toad conservation at Ottenby

New ponds created for green toad conservation at Ottenby

During the trip we also got to meet Susanne Forslund, who works closely with the local community here and has dedicated 10-15 yeas to supporting all the flora and fauna found on Öland. She has also been instrumental in establishing 3 ‘LIFE’ projects.


Susanne’s dedication and passion for the place is overwhelming and what she and her colleagues have accomplished is truly admiral and highly inspiring. The green toad reintroduction, back into the place the last green toads in Sweden once occurred, and in partnership with Norden’s Ark, is only a small part of her achievements – but none the less impressive to witness first hand.

Susanne Forsater and Claes Andrén, Prefessor of Conservation Biology, releasing green toads bred at Norden's Ark

Susanne Forslund and Claes Andrén, releasing green toads bred at Norden’s Ark (c) Andrew Gray

Part of the toad project has involved developing and  supporting specific environments where the introduced colonies of toads can then grow. These include creating new ponds at a protected Bird reserve in Ottenby, southern Öland, and protecting a 87 hectare coastal meadow area at Hogby hamn in northern Öland, which she manages with the full co-operation and collaboration of local farmers.

It was a real pleasure to meet Susanne, and to participate in the releasing of the green toads, raised by Norden’s Ark, by her and Claes this week.


LIFE-BaltCoast            Norden’s Ark        Lucy’s Toad on Tara’s Page

Care and share alike..

photo[17]This week we’ve been refurbishing one of our poison-dart frog exhibits in the Vivarium, and the newly recreated rainforest display, complete with cascade and full of strawberry dart frogs, is now ready for the weekend. Such rainforest -themed exhibits give many of our visitors, including young children, a unique opportunity to experience little-understood creatures of the rainforests’ first-hand. We hope it creates such an interest in nature for the little ones that many of them will then grow up to form a care and commitment to helping conserve such animals for the future, and especially for the places they live.

Through engaging people in different aspects about rain forests, we also hope people will realise that in conserving rain forests we are also helping support everything around us –  Yes, saving a rainforest tree might help the beautiful strawberry-pioson dart frog to raise its tadpoles in the bromeliads that grow in that tree, but in saving such a tree it also does so much more…


Saving trees is one of the best ways of saving the environment because of the extraordinary contribution that tropical forests make towards reducing carbon emissions. (c) Andrew Gray

If you cut down and burn trees, you release carbon into the atmosphere, but if you let them grow they can absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Currently the world’s trees absorb about a fifth of the carbon emissions generated by fossil fuels each year. Encouraging countries to plant trees, or discouraging them from logging, is by far the most effective way of reducing  emissions.

Currently, rich countries spend billions of pounds on renewable energy at home, but if they were willing to spend a few million pounds abroad to protect tropical forests then that would reduce emissions by a far greater amount – as well as providing us all with cleaner air to breathe!

photo[14]If you’d like to find out a little more about rain forests, so you can also share the facts with others, simply just email me your name and address and I’ll be pleased to send you out a little pack I’ve put together from different sources. I’ll also include some info on how you can help local amphibians as well as include a new lemur leaf frog postcard print that you might like.

Help spread the word about how important it is to save rainforest trees – because together we can all make a difference:

GLOBAL DEFORESTATION                                 SAVE MAHAN FOREST

Global explorer’s save the date

focOver the summer we have be running a new initiative ‘Global Explorers‘, where families have been visiting Manchester Museum and creating animals from junk modelling materials, inspired by the museum’s collections, including the museum’s Vivarium as well as the Nature’s Library and Living Worlds.They have made everything from frogs, birds, foxes,  and many more…

1[2]The Autumn will also provide many opportunities for families wanting to get immersed in the museum’s collections, so don’t miss our next BIG SATURDAY ON 27TH SEPTEMBER, which will provide a full day of discovery and exploration of the South Pacific inspired by the Museum’s Living Cultures collection.

Here you will able to make their own Hawaiian flower lei to wear as you all explore the Museum and learn about the fascinating cultures and diverse environments of the Pacific.

Drop in, free, for families

*Don’t forget there are also drop-in drawing and other art activities inspired by the Museum’s collection in the Museum’s Discovery Centre, every single weekend 11am-4pm.

Guest blog post contribution by Sajia Sultana, Manchester University student and Manchester Museum Summer Public Programme Intern, and Victoria Grant, Family Programme Co-ordinator.

Colour-changing frogs

When people think of colour-changing animals most people immediately think of chameleons, and although certain chameleons can change colour, they’re not the only animals to do so..

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

Lemur leaf frog, showing green resting colouration

For the last few weeks I’ve been investigating the dramatic colour change of some of the lemur leaf frogs at the vivarium.

Visitors to the vivarium can see the lemur frogs being housed in the tanks on the left as you look into the back of house conservation area, but here they are normally sleeping on the underside of leaves or occasionally pressed tight against the glass to conserve moisture. Different groups of frogs are carefully kept in separate tanks for each bloodline, in order to preserve genetic diversity for their future conservation.

Lemur leaf frog, showing dark brown colouration associated with nocturnal activity

Lemur leaf frog, showing brown colour associated with nocturnal activity

One of the amazing things about these frogs is that they can change their pale green colour to a dark reddy-brown colour. However, even if you’re lucky enough to be able to see some of these amazing frogs in the vivarium, you won’t see this dark colouration as they only change colour at night. Like many tree frogs, the lemur leaf frog is nocturnal, and so to see this colour change myself I have been photographing the frogs in a specially prepared tank overnight. I’ve made the pictures for one night into a short video so hopefully you can see both how active these frogs can be, and how dramatically they change colour.

Although the video looks bright, the room in which they are housed was actually very dark, and this video has been assembled from individuals pictures taken with a flash, once every ten minutes. At the end of the video, you can see how their body clock knows that it is morning again, and they all retreat back to the leaves and revert to their original pale green colour.


 Chris Blount: New Research Project            Chris Blount: Research update 

Fabulous frogs, coming soon..

David2 copy 2

Sir David Attenbrough with Splendid leaf Frog at Manchester Museum (c) Andrew Gray

If you’re interested in watching the latest offering from Sir David Attenborough, filmed with him in our Vivarium here at the Manchester Museum, here is a related link associated with the programme and our Lemur Leaf Frog conservation project:

BBC 2, Natural World 


Fabulous Frogs will be transmitted on BBC 2, Thursday 28th August at 9.00pm.

Amphibian Conservation in Action

Lemur Leaf frog at Manchester Museum (c) A Gray, courtesy of Sir David Attenborough

Project Lemur Frog is a model amphibian conservation project and an international collaboration of  institutions and individuals committed to helping secure the future of the Critically Endangered Lemur Leaf Frog. The holistic approach used includes research, public engagement and educational activities, and directly conserving the species through direct in-situ and ex-situ action:

Research: Latest genetic research facilitating the first genetically informed professional amphibian breeding programme in the world. 

Get involved: Sponsor your own Lemur Leaf Frog in support of Project Lemur Frog

Ex-situ Conservation: Amphibian Ark Update

In-situ Conservation: Habitat Restoration

Questions Answered: Lemur Frog Project Interview


Fabulous Frogs!

SBA MUSEUM (18)Frogs are fabulous, its official! Even some of the very poorly kids from Manchester Children’s Hospital couldn’t help but raise a smile at the antics of some of the amphibians we took over there this week, which was so wonderful to witness. That super initiative, Culture Shots, was a pure pleasure to be involved with.

Another pleasure we are lucky enough to be involved in is the widespread sharing of information about these fabulous creatures. This is done on many levels, from using the museum’s live collection for our baby explorer programmes at the museum, to teaching on the field courses we run for undergraduate students in the tropics..

- all are geared up for opening a window of wonderment to the world of nature, and providing an insight into some of the marvellous creatures that so many people know very little about.

Isn’t it cool when you experience something that changes your perception… true growth that can sometimes lead you on a different path in life, if the impact resonates strongly enough within..



Fabulous_Frog_QRCode copyPlease note: For interaction with the vivarium’s new mobile phone or iPad ‘Fabulous Frogs’ app, specially developed by Mimas with us for ages up to 11 year olds, the steps are as follows:

- Download Junaio for free from App Store (Apple) or Play Store (Android)

- Make sure you device has internet access

- Click onto the Junaio logo (once downloaded)

- Press the Scan button and scan the Fabulous_Frog_QRCode.png (above left)

- Click on the Splendid Leaf frog trigger image kindly provided by Chris Mattison, to fully open it (image below)

- Hover the iPad or phone over the trigger image to view the interactive content.

Fabulous_Frog_App_Trigger copy



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