Student - March 22, 2012

Safe sex for newts

Keeping newts safe on the dangerous road to love. Students of Wildlife Management at VHL Leeuwarden have been working at this for about two weeks now.

Lighting the way for the newt.
A small river, the Potmarge, runs behind Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden. On spring mornings and evenings, small amphibians can be seen running around there in pursuit of a mate. This entails crossing a cycle path, where large numbers end up squashed by cyclists and scooter riders. Last year, fourth year student Carlijn Lanrijssens and her fellow student Tariq Stark sometimes counted as many as 30 squashed newts on the cycle path. ‘We thought that shouldn't be allowed to happen right next to a green applied sciences university. What is more, it is unique that there is such a big population of newts so close to a town centre', says Lanrijssens.
Grass snake
Lanrijssens and Stark took the initiative to launch a rescue operation. With the help of Leeuwarden municipal council, they placed 130 metres of fencing along the Potmarge, with thirty buckets dug into the soil on both sides of it. Twice a day, a group of students liberate the newts from the buckets and transfer them safely to the other side. Sometimes the catch includes an unfortunate frog or toad. Every bucket contains a stick or twig, ‘so that mice can climb out again.' The students register the number of newts and their sex, in order to learn something about the Potmarge newt population.
The newts will be helped across the road until the first week of April. Carlijn: ‘I am still hoping to find a grass snake in one of the buckets. I would be so nice if they were living so close to the town centre too.'

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