Arnold Cooke is well known to many in the herpetological world. Both a prominent professional ecologist, and a highly-regarded amphibian specialist, he has worked with amphibians for many years. Most famously he has conducted the UK's longest-standing study of common toads and the effect of road mortality on their populations.
His latest paper presents a synopsis of his epic body of work, and sadly an epitaph for the toad populations in question, that are now almost extinct:
Arnold Cooke. (2011). The role of road traffic in the near extinction of Common Toads (Bufo bufo) in Ramsey and Bury. Nature in Cambridgeshire, 53, 45-50.
Living in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, he observed the large numbers of toads killed on the village's roads each spring, during their annual migration to three different ponds. Over the years, the numbers declined drastically, and despite the fervent efforts of 'toad lifters' to help the animals safely across the roads, numbers continued to plummet.
(From: Nature in Cambridgeshire, 53, 45-50).
Detailed studies over the years have shown that road traffic has been the primary cause of toad declines in these populations. Now, sadly, numbers are so low that it is not worth counting them.
Arnold Cooke says: 'Sadly, our local toads have almost disappeared, and 2011 is the first year since 1973 that I haven't walked the roads counting casualties.'