TECHNIQUE

Accommodation of Casualty Amphibians (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Triturus cristatus - Northern crested newt, Triturus helveticus - Palmate newt, Triturus vulgaris - Smooth newt, Bufo bufo - Common European toad, Bufo calamita - Natterjack toad, Rana esculenta - Edible frog, Rana ridibunda - Marsh frog, Rana temporaria - European common frog.

These species are from the families Bufonidae, Ranidae, Salamandridae.

Accommodation for amphibians must be escape-proof; a tight-fitting lid is important.

Transport Container:

  • Transport in a waterproof box with ventilation provided by e.g. a perforated lid
  • Sufficient ventilation is essential
  • Substrate in the container should be damp: e.g. damp vegetation (moss, or aquatic plants or a damp, clean sponge free of soap/detergent/disinfectant.
  • The container should be kept at a low ambient temperature and overheating must be avoided.
    • If ice is used to keep a container cool in very hot weather it is important to ensure that the animals are never brought into direct contact with the ice.
  • Tadpoles must be transported in water.
  • Chlorine may be tolerated by adult lung-breathing animals (not hibernating) but is recorded to be lethal to larval (tadpole) stages and aquatic species (B501).
  • When renewing / replacing water, it should be undertaken gradually, suding dechlorinated water and with a temperature change of less than 1C per hour (B501).

(B151, B156.18.w18, B189.6.w6, B501)

Short term (Immediate/Emergency) Accommodation:

  • A simple container may be used:
    • A plastic box or a small aquarium, with ventilation holes or a mesh lid 
    • The floor of the box /aquarium lined with a layer of unbleached paper towel or of foam rubber which has not been treated with chemicals, kept moist.
    • A piece of flower pot or bark as a hiding place.
  • For tadpoles: a plastic box or aquarium.
    • Water should be shallow, clean, chemical-free, reasonably oxygenated and changed (partial changes) as often as necessary to avoid ammonia building up.
    • Keep large and small tadpoles in separate containers to avoid cannibalism.
    • Ensure the surface area is sufficient for feeding of the number of tadpoles present.
    • Provide access to dry land once metamorphosis starts.

Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation:

  • Plastic or glass vivarium.
  • Tight-fitting but well-ventilated lid (e.g. wire mesh or plastic mesh) is essential.
  • Lid may be weighted e.g. with a brick.
  • A full spectrum light including ultraviolet light should be provided (e.g. "Trulight" - Durotest Laboratories).
    • It is important to replace full spectrum light bulbs at intervals as indicated in the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Provide day/night cycle; 12 hours light/ 12 hours dark, or base the cycle on the natural daylength for the time of year.
  • Provide an ambient temperature of not more than 20-23C (B151).
  • Fluctuating temperature between day and night (lower at night) may be beneficial.
  • Relatively high humidity should be provided.
  • Provide a choice of environmental conditions (microclimates) to allow the patient to self-regulate by behavioural means, choosing its preferred ambient temperature and humidity:
    • Thermal gradient (one end of the container warmer than the other), provided using e.g. an infrared bulb over one end of the accommodation.
    • Moisture gradient (different areas of the container should vary from very wet to fairly dry)
    • For Triturus spp. newts in their terrestrial phase, an aquarium should be provided partially filled with deep layer of dead leaf litter, maintained such that the surface is dry but the bottom is quite moist; this allows the newts to choose their optimal position within the moisture gradient.
  • Provide good-quality water, clean and chemical free, sufficient for submerging (e.g. in a shallow bowl) and containing e.g. a flat rock as a "safety island".
  • Provide an area for hiding/seclusion.
  • Ensure the substrate never completely dries out: mist with water daily if necessary.

Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation:

  • A more complex environment is required for longer-term accommodation.
  • This would usually be provided by a vivarium or an enclosed area including a pond.
  • Substrate allowing burrowing and providing shelter may be developed using soil, peat moss, leaf litter and pieces of bark.
  • Periodic replacement of the substrate will be required.
  • Water must be available, which may be as simple as a shallow bowl of chemical-free water with a flat rock in as a "safety island". More complex flowing water systems may be provided using pumps and filters.
  • For Triturus spp. newts in their terrestrial phase, an aquarium should be provided partially filled with deep layer of dead leaf litter, maintained such that the surface is dry but the bottom is quite moist; this allows the newts to choose their optimal position within the moisture gradient.
  • Provide a choice of environmental conditions (microclimates) to allow the patient to self-regulate by behavioural means, choosing its preferred ambient temperature and humidity:
    • Thermal gradient (one end of the container warmer than the other), provided using e.g. an infrared bulb over one end of the accommodation.
    • Moisture gradient (different areas of the container should vary from very wet to fairly dry): 75-95% humidity appears best for most amphibian species. (P24.327.w7)
    • For Triturus spp. newts in their terrestrial phase, an aquarium should be provided partially filled with deep layer of dead leaf litter, maintained such that the surface is dry but the bottom is quite moist; this allows the newts to choose their optimal position within the moisture gradient.
  • Temperature of 18-22C, with seasonal drops in temperature of 5-8C is considered suitable for most temperate amphibian species. (P24.327.w7)
  • A full spectrum light including ultraviolet light should be provided (e.g. "Trulight" - Durotest Laboratories).
    • It is important to replace full spectrum light bulbs at intervals as indicated in the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Additional furnishings may include branches and living plants.

(D28, B22.18.w6, B151, B156.18.w18, B189.6.w6, B200, P24.327.w7)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
Notes
  • Keep the design of short-term and hospital accommodation simple for ease of cleaning and catching.
  • Provide a choice of microclimates whenever possible; this allows the inhabitant to choose the most comfortable temperature and humidity.
  • Eliminate chlorine from tap water before use by allowing it to stand for a few days exposed to air, or by passing it through a charcoal filter.
  • Keep substrates clean; avoid build up of nitrogenous wastes and bacteria.
  • Accommodation may be disinfected using dilute chlorine bleach, followed by thorough rinsing to remove potentially harmful residues (B22.18.w6).
  • Soil may be heated before use (place in shallow pans, heat at 200C for 30 minutes) to kill any unwanted arthropods.
  • Leaves and bark may be frozen for several days before use to to kill any unwanted arthropods.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Tight-fitting lid is important to prevent escapes.
  • Good ventilation is essential; development of fungal and bacterial infections is encouraged in stagnant air conditions.
  • Triturus spp. in their terrestrial phase are very susceptible to red leg (Aeromonas spp. infection) if maintained in an environment which is too moist, and to desiccation (drying out) if they are kept too dry (B189.6.w6).
  • Tap water, because it contains chlorine, is not suitable for use for amphibians unless it has been passed through a charcoal filter or allowed to stand for a few days before use.
  • The substrate should never be allowed to become completely dry.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Suitable vivaria are available from most pet stores.
  • Suitable full-spectrum light sources should be available from good pet stores.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Construction / fitting out of short/medium term accommodation for reptiles is not difficult; however attention to detail is important in order to provide suitable environmental conditions and ensure the casualty cannot escape.
  • For further advice on wild UK amphibians contact Froglife.
Cost/ Availability
  • All items required are readily available and most are inexpensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01).
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman
References

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