Natterjack toads are one of Britain’s most rare species of amphibians.  Like many amphibian species, the natterjack toad experienced significant declines in populations and distribution over the twentieth century. Declines were most severe in the south of England and by the mid 1970’s only one site (Woolmer Forest in Hampshire) remained.

In the mid 1990’s, ARC (then The Herpetological Conservation Trust) appreciating the precarious nature of the situation and with the support of Natural England (then English Nature) embarked on an ambitious programme of translocations. ARC (in partnership with local authorities and private landowners) have since successfully returned natterjack toads to five sites, restoring approximately 25% of the populations which existed historically.

In 2014, knowing more could be done, ARC’s previous Amphibian Conservation Officer John Buckley secured a habitat management agreement on a former natterjack toad site near Bordon in Hampshire.  Blackmoor, as the site is known, had a longstanding population of natterjack toads until the mid-1970s when presumably changes to the quality of habitat resulted in the population’s demise.  The site had sadly become dominated by self-seeded Scots Pine and ARC concluded that it would need a considerable effort to restore it to its former glory. With the support from Natural England, South Downs National Park and local Councillor Adam Carew ARC began a programme of heathland restoration works in 2015. The programme of works aimed to restore the heath to a more favourable status, one which would support specialist species of plants and animals specifically adapted to thrive in its dry sandy soils and shallow ephemeral pools.

Contractor at work removing willow scrub in a wetland area.  Longhorn cattle used for conservation grazing around a restored pond

By 2020, with felling complete, pools created and grazing established Blackmoor had begun to transform. Swaths of heather started to return and specialist plant communities lost to pine have begun to re-establish, but the site is still missing one key species…

In early summer 2022 ARC staff will begin a four year programme of wild to wild translocations, moving spawn and tadpoles from Woolmer Forest to the adjacent site of Blackmoor.  Moving animals over a period of four years ARC hope to establish a self-sustaining population of natterjack toads. The work includes detailed population monitoring which will run during and continue after translocations cease, the ultimate goal being to find spawn laid naturally and the subsequent metamorphosis of tadpoles. 

The movement of this rare species of amphibian is only possible with a translocation licence granted by Natural England.  The translocation is carried out with specialist advice from the Institute of Zoology (IoZ) to minimise the risk of spreading disease.