Flowers Of The Month
The Silvermine River Wetlands, Bird watching & the Leopard Toad (Bufo Pantherinis)
The Silvermine River Wetlands is a protected area to the north east of Fish Hoek where the Silvermine River forms a small fynbos marshland before it reaches False Bay. The area is marked by excellent paths and is accessible from every direction with a car park just off Main Road in Clovelly, Fish Hoek
The Wetlands are popular with nature lovers who come to see the plants, wildlife and especially the endangered Leopard Toad. It is also popular with birdwatchers due to the range of species that visit and make their homes in the Wetlands (see list below).
Western Leopard Toad(Bufo pantherinus) - (formerly: Bufo pardalus)
This large toad of up to about 140 mm in length has a most attractive dorsal pattern of chocolate brown patches on a bright yellow background. It is endemic to certain low- lying coastal areas of the south-western Cape and has a restricted and fragmented distribution. Besides the Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula, the western leopard toad occurs in the Pringle Bay- Betty’s Bay – Kleinmond area, and in the Stanford – Gaansbaai - Pearly Beach area.
Although these toads are dependent on wetland habitats such as rivers, coastal lakes, vleis and pans, they spend most of their time out of water, even venturing into suburban gardens to forage. Typical breeding sites have standing, open water, over 50cm deep, with scattered patches of aquatic plants and beds of emergent vegetation such as bulrushes. Breeding usually takes place during August but has also been recorded at the end of July and in September. During this time adult males and females converge on selected breeding \sites and mating takes place, with the females depositing thousands of eggs in the water in long, gelatinous strings. The tadpoles develop into tiny 11-mm-long toads, which leaves the water in their thousands during October, November and/or December. However, relatively few of the offspring develop into adults; most fall victim to a variety of predators (including their own kind) and other hazards
The western leopard toad is threatened through most of its restricted and fragmented distribution area by development and habitat degradation. This has resulted in it being recently (2001) assigned to the IUCN Red List category of “Endangered”. A particular problem facing this species, besides habitat loss, is that, especially during the breeding season, adult toads migrating to breeding sites in urban environments are forced to negotiate roads, walls, canals and similar barriers. During this time, many adults in prime breeding condition get killed by road traffic, which could potentially threaten the survival of local populations in the longer term. Artificial water bodies with steep vertical sides, such as canals and swimming pools, represent additional deathtraps. Other threats at some breeding sites include pollutants, introduced predatory fish (e.g. water hyacinth). Fortunately, however, the species also occurs in protected nature areas such as Zandvlei Nature Reserve and the Cape Peninsula National Park.
The distribution and conservation status of the Western Leopard Toad is monitored by the Western Cape Nature Conservation Board as part of a threatened species-monitoring programme. This helps ensure that appropriate recommendations can be made when and where necessary to promote the conservation and wise management of this species and its habitat.