Every summer, thousands of fingernail-sized Western toads cover a rural road in the community of Ryder Lake in Chilliwack, British Columbia. When the toadlets migrate from their breeding ground in the wetlands into the forest where they spend most of their lives, many never make it to the other side of the road that has fragmented their habitat and interrupts their migration.
Western toads, like other amphibians in British Columbia, are struggling because of habitat loss, climate change, and human interference. Amphibians are an important component of global biodiversity. Because they are very sensitive to changes in their environment, they are good indicators of ecosystem health. A decline in amphibian populations can signal changes in the environment that can ultimately impact many other species, including humans, such as the quality of the air and water.
For local residents such as Steve Clegg who grew up observing amphibians in nearby ponds in Ryder Lake, the western toad population decline is a cause for concern and a call to action.
Toad People introduces audiences to the stories of people like Clegg who make up a community-led movement to save this threatened species. In different parts of the province, people from all ages and walks of life come together to do whatever it takes to help toads survive. They stop road traffic, collect toads in buckets and carry them across the road, build toad tunnels. In the Kootenays, Debbie Pitaoulis is fighting to protect the toad habitat from logging.
The film follows these individuals’ passion for the natural world, their fighting spirit, perseverance but also their struggles, demonstrating that people do not need to be environmental activists or scientists to take action, they just need to be citizens who care. As they deal with the various challenges that come with fighting for the future of the natural world, they do not give up and build their strength from realizing that they are not alone in their efforts, that more people care about wildlife survival, and that together they are the “toad people” that can make lasting changes.
The film’s story goes beyond toads, serving as a reminder that extinction does not just happen in the remote corners of the world. This happens to species that live close to us, which also means that wildlife conservation starts on our doorstep. Any step one can take to protect habitat and wildlife close to home, no matter how small the species is, makes a difference, helps create global impact, and can be a life-changing experience. Ultimately taking action for the wild not only emphasizes the importance of leaving sufficient space for the species that live around us but also helps repair the fragile connections between people and the natural world.