Plight to save common platanna from road carnage

Hundreds of amphibians are killed during their mass migration across the road. Picture: File

Hundreds of amphibians are killed during their mass migration across the road. Picture: File

Published Feb 25, 2024


Cape Town - Frog Friends Helderberg is working to save African clawed frogs, or the common platanna, crossing the busy R44 highway in search of water at the Paardevlei.

Last week a video, filmed by the environmentalist group, went viral showing thousand of frogs attempting to cross the R44 in Somerset West.

But hundreds of the amphibians were killed during the mass migration.

These so-called “flat frogs” live in natural water bodies, but you might see them in your garden pond.

They can also be found living in the local sewerage works.

Common platannas feed in the water, on any living creatures they can overpower.

Frog Friends Helderberg appealed to the City of Cape Town to protect the species by either having traffic control present during this event of dispersal or constructing a wall or pathway.

The organisation explained the phenomenon of dispersal is a natural occurrence and that the species would cross highways and streets in order to reach a larger water source to survive.

They have also called for electronic signboards to warn motorists and have created their own signs to make road users aware.

Elma Pollard, founder of Frog Friends Helderberg, said the species crosses the busy highways as a matter of survival.

“Common platanna breed madly, and they consume other frogs,” she said.

“This is why when the rains come, they hatch and they try to disperse to find other water bodies so that their chances of survival are better, otherwise they can also be eaten, even by each other.

“They are ferocious feeders, which makes them so resilient.

“Part of the problem is that the City pumps the Paardevlei dam empty in summer to control the weeds.

“These are the frogs who are now moving over the R44, towards the dam, because they do not have water, and this is the best habitat for them.”

“Before, the whole area consisted of wetlands, and that is where the frogs had established themselves. Then came along a double highway in the middle of the wetlands. So it’s the only passage for them now, unless they go over it.

She called for the slaughter to end.

“Thousands of frogs are slaughtered every year, dying under motorists' wheels, and this is very brutal, and this happens a few times a year, and this is why we created the Frog Friends organisation,” she added.

“Originally, the plan was to build tunnels under the road, but the City said it was too expensive.

“We are in new discussions with the city traffic department about closing off roads or building a wall.”

Eddie Andrews, deputy mayor and Mayco member for spatial planning and environment, said more information was needed about the migration of the species to address the problem and for a natural water body to be created.

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