2012 was the third year of the survey, which is supported by Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park and The Heritage Council and the IWT is Gradually building a comprehensive picture of the smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) in Ireland, including details of its distribution and preferred habitats.
The smooth newt is one of only three amphibian species in Ireland, along with the common frog and natterjack toad, and is considered a native species. According to the IWT the newt has been historically under-recorded, so for 2012 they focused efforts on counties where they’d received few or no previous records. Volunteers were trained in newt survey techniques in Wexford, Mayo, Louth, Clare, Laois, Limerick, Kildare and Donegal. People from all over the country also submitted casual records, and these were incorporated into the survey results.
Adding the data for 2012 to records for the previous two years the IWT reveals that newts are widespread across Ireland, but says there are still significant gaps.
“Can it be that there are really no newts in Louth or Tipperary?” asks IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty. “There are also large areas in counties like Kerry, Mayo and Donegal where we have no confirmation of newt presence. Because the newt has historically been under-recorded it is likely that we still don’t have the full picture. We still have lots to do and are calling on people across Ireland to send us their newt sightings.”
More than half of the records submitted to the IWT cam from garden ponds… highlighting how important these artificial mini-wetlands are to this enigmatic amphibian. Other surprises included Ireland’s first ever alpine newt in Co. Galway — a species more at home on the continent, and likely to be a discarded or escaped pet, and a possible record of the Rana virus, otherwise known as ‘red-leg disease, from County Kildare — a disease that has decimated amphibian populations elsewhere in the world.
The IWT will be continuing its national newt survey in 2013, and will announcing more details of the survey and training days soon via its website and Facebook page.
Photo Credit: © All Rights Reserved Andrew Kelly Photography — used with permission as per IWT Press Release