The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - March 4

As toads across Italy gear up for the mating season, hundreds of animal lovers are taking to the roads to save them from meeting a messy end.

Encouraged by milder weather and the start of the spring rains, toads and frogs have embarked on their annual migration to nearby ponds and streams where they mate and lay their eggs. However, thousands of others get squashed on roads each year as they leave their hibernation holes and head for water. This has prompted animal activists to organize toad patrols to ferry the frisky amphibians across busy highways.

As dusk falls, dozens of volunteers start gathering in popular crossing areas, equipped with flashlights and rubber gloves. Approaching toads are intercepted before they reach the roads and then airlifted across the highway in buckets. The northern city of Treviso - one of the worst hit areas with around 4,000 amphibians dying each year - has gone one step further and built a special passageway connecting the toads' wintering grounds with a nearby lake.

The tunnel, whose exit is about 20 metres from the water, has been built at the exact point where the hordes of frogs regularly converge as they charge down the slopes of Mt. Montello every year. The building of the "frog-a-duct" is the crowning moment in a campaign which has been going on since 2003, involving hundreds of anti-hunt activists.