Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group
The highly toxic Asian toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) is invasive in Madagascar, and may pose significant risks to native Malagasy species which are endemic to the island and are already in decline due to deforestation. A key component of the control programme for Asian toads is to quickly identify the presence of toads in forest fragments which are home to these vulnerable species, and ultimately aim to eliminate the toad from these areas. Dr. Ben Muller and the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group (MFG) will use Song Meter Mini acoustic recorders and Kaleidoscope analysis software to locate, monitor, and help eradicate the toad from parts of Parc Ivoloina - a forest fragment which is a biodiversity haven within the current Asian toad incursion in Madagascar.
Unfortunately, the team have had several issues with the import of these Wildlife Acoustics products, due to the somewhat unique nature of the products, and a slight misunderstanding of the importing and customs process in Madagascar. After several months of negotiations, paperwork, and the ongoing risk of having the products impounded, the team finally took delivery of the Song Meter Minis in early June 2021. Happily, the team deployed the recorders almost immediately at various waterbodies within Parc Ivoloina to begin the first step of the Project: recording Asian toad calls and field recordings to determine where Asian toads are spawning. Once recorded, these samples will be used to build classifiers in Kaleidoscope to help quickly detect toad vocalizations in future recordings from Parc Ivoloina.
The team will continue to place the Song Meter Minis at various waterbodies throughout Parc Ivoloina to refine the known distribution of toads within the Parc. Data collected will also help to refine the classifier. From there, toads will be removed from areas of high value within the Parc, and exclusion fencing will be erected to keep toads out. The Song Meter Minis will continue to operate, and data will be continually analyzed from these areas, to ensure that they remain toad free.
After a delayed start to the field programme, due to a 3-month delay in the customs process required to legally import the equipment into Madagascar, the team were able to deploy the Song Meter Minis at waterbodies in Parc Ivoloina. Since then, the recorders have been rotated around many waterbodies within the Parc to gather data about the presence/absence of toad calling. Over 150 hours of recordings have been collected and analyzed since July, with several hundred more hours awaiting processing. After analyses, the results indicate the presence of toads at each waterbody, and therefore have helped to update the distribution of toads within the Parc. Simultaneously, the team have procured over 1 km of fencing materials to begin construction on a Toad Exclusion Zone within the Parc. After its construction, the Song Meter Minis will be used to ensure rapid detection of toads within the Exclusion Zone.
The team will continue to place the Song Meter Minis at various waterbodies throughout Parc Ivoloina to refine the known distribution of toads within the Parc. The team will also construct the toad Exclusion Zone within the Parc.
The Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group team have been continuing to utilize the Song Meter Mini acoustic recorders throughout Parc Ivoloina to detect Asian toad calls. The team have been rotating the recorders through areas where spawning may occur and now have close to 1000 hours of field recordings. The rainy season arrived a little late to eastern Madagascar this year, and spawning only began in earnest in December. The team have been learning how to use the cluster analysis functions in Kaleidoscope Pro, and have been building classifiers, to help them detect vocalizing toads, which (thankfully) have been rare. Unfortunately, we encountered some delays obtaining the materials needed for the construction of fences we are using to exclude toads from specific areas of Parc Ivoloina. Many of the materials had to be custom-made, in order to withstand the wet and humid conditions within the heavily-forested Parc Ivoloina. We are happy to report that all materials have been acquired and construction of the fence has begun.
The toad Exclusion Zones fencing will be completed, and toads will be removed from those zones. Song Meter Minis will be used as detection tools to ensure that toads are effectively removed from these zones.