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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: andrew.gray@manchester.ac.uk

GLOBAL DEFORESTATION                                 SAVE MAHAN FOREST