Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Monday, 6 April 2009 00:43 UK

Volunteers sought for frog count

Great crested newt
Great crested newt are a rare sight in the park

Volunteers recording sightings of amphibians in a national park could also act as an early warning against fatal diseases affecting the creatures.

Ranavirus, also called red-leg, and fungal infection chytridiomycosis have decimated numbers across the world.

There have been no reports of either in the Cairngorms National Park, which is seeking help recording frogs, toads and newts.

The park authority said there were various schemes people could help with.

Cairngorms biodiversity officer Stephen Corcoran said now was a good time for spotting amphibians.

People should avoid moving or collecting amphibians because this can help prevent the spread of diseases
Stephen Corcoran
Biodiversity officer

He said: "They spend most of the year in terrestrial habitats but they go to ponds to spawn in March and April."

Common frog and toad, along with palmate newt, can be seen across the park.

Smooth newt and great crested newt are much rarer and so far are only recorded at one location in Strathspey.

But the park authority said other sites may have still to be found.

Mr Corcoran said: "I hope as many people as possible will record what they see.

"There are a number of national initiatives that volunteers can get involved in and training is taking place across Scotland. However, people should avoid moving or collecting amphibians because this can help prevent the spread of diseases."

'Frog hotel'

About three years ago, conservationists meeting in Washington DC were told it would cost almost half a billion dollars to save the world's amphibians from being wiped out by disease, infection and habitat loss.

Efforts have since been made to purchase land to protect species and also to encourage the captive breeding of rare amphibians.

In March, it was announced that what was claimed to be Britain's first "frog hotel" was to be created on the banks of the Water of Leith.

The two-tier structure, made from wood and recycled materials, will be placed alongside a pond in Redhall Walled Garden in Edinburgh.

It has been designed to protect mating frogs, which are vulnerable to predators such as foxes and herons.

The project aims to encourage breeding amphibians and highlight the work volunteers do for the environment.

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