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Sign call after rare toad pond set on fire

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Sign call after rare toad pond set on fire

A POOL created on the Powfoot shore to help natterjack toad breeding has been set ablaze twice in the space of a week.

But conservationist Terry Harrop of Cummertrees says he believes the fires were due to confusion over the purpose of the pool — calling for a local estate to allow the erection of warning signs.
Terry said: “It’s happened twice now.”
Noting the pool constructed at Easter last year had dried out due to the sunny weather, he added: “Anybody going down to the foreshore would walk and see, to their mind, a fire pit with driftwood all the way around it.”
Last week, Terry discovered that someone had moved driftwood into the pool and set it alight, destroying the plastic lining.
Discovering the damage to the pool he has personally funded and constructed, he said: “I was completely disheartened.”
But just days later friends told Terry that someone had lit a fire on the beach.
Venturing to the pool, Terry found the pool ablaze once again, and five young people paddling nearby.
Describing them as ‘nice kids’ who simply did not realise the purpose of the pool, Terry said: “It wasn’t malicious.”
Terry notes stones were thrown into the pool shortly after it was constructed last Easter, and that he erected a sign to explain it was designed to help with spawning of Europe’s most northerly natterjack toad colony — a legally protected species.
However, he was told by Hoddom and Kinmount Estates that he must remove the sign, for fears it highlights the toad spawning.
But Terry, who says the pool last year resulted in 500 spawn, said: “If there isn’t a board people will damage the pool because they don’t know what’s there.”
And he says the fires make an argument for the pools to be fenced off to the public.
Unusually dry weather is believed to have delayed the traditional natterjack toad breeding season, but hopes wet weather and high tides can allow spawning to take place successfully — as it must at least once every four years for a colony to survive.
Hoddom and Kinmount Estate have not responded to an enquiry about their position on the matter.

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