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Good Reads  Reptiles & Amphibians  Amphibians

Tadpole Hunter A Personal History of Amphibian Conservation and Research

By: Arnold Cooke(Author), Trevor JC Beebee(Foreword By)
300 pages, 106 colour photos, 24 b/w illustrations, 7 b/w maps, 32 colour tables
A personal history of amphibian conservation in Britain based on more than half a century of professional experience.
Tadpole Hunter
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  • Tadpole Hunter ISBN: 9781784274481 Paperback Aug 2023 In stock
Price: £29.99
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About this book

This book describes the history of amphibian conservation and research in Britain. It is packed with unique insights from the author who, in the late 1960s, was Britain's first professional amphibian conservationist. At that time, the situation for amphibians was extremely serious after three decades of population decline. Up to the 1990s, Cooke was directly involved in understanding and trying to remedy the situation via research, legislation and active conservation. He initiated long-term monitoring, surveillance and studies that have continued well into this century. This research developed and utilised simple monitoring techniques, such as counting breeding newts at night or toads dead on roads. The resulting datasets also proved of value in determining whether breeding behaviour was affected by climate change.

This overview charts in detail how amphibian conservation developed from a relatively low knowledge base with few individuals involved to an abundance of information available for the many groups of people now active in the field. It includes published, unpublished and no longer readily accessible material, to emphasise how contemporary knowledge, attitudes and resources affected what was done and what happened as a result. Various policies, strategies, laws and other initiatives have helped stop or slow declines, but the future is still uncertain.

Tadpole Hunter will appeal to a broad readership, from naturalists to professional herpetologists. Furthermore, this story will have relevance for amphibian conservation in other countries in light of their more recent widespread declines. It is also of interest to those wanting to know more about the development of wildlife conservation in Britain.



1. Introduction
2. Ups and downs in the twentieth century
3. Pesticides and other hazards
4. Frogs and toads: collation, predation and translocation
5. Spawn story
6. Toads in a hole
7. The natterjack years
8. Newts of fen and forest
9. Here be dragons: development and the great crested newt
10. The newts of Shillow Hill
11. Long-term studies and climate change
12. A recent history of amphibian conservation


Customer Reviews (1)

  • An absorbing chronicle of amphibian conservation & research in Britain
    By Marc 6 Aug 2023 Written for Paperback
    This is different from most books on British amphibians. Here the author takes you on a personal tour of how his interest in these creatures developed, and how he pioneered studies on the populations in his local area. The text takes you on an engaging and analytical journey through Dr Cooke's work, the researchers he met and collaborated with along the way, and the results he found. He presents this information against a backdrop of studies being conducted elsewhere, and weaves this into an authoritative and engaging account of amphibian conservation and research from the 1960s to the present day, including a look at conservation in the post-Brexit landscape. While he writes in a very engaging way, Dr Cooke is a very analytical person and this comes across in the book, which is quite data-heavy with multiple charts and tables, but it's structured well and there are some lovely photos (especially historical ones) that make this book highly accessible. In summary, if you're after a book that just provides you with the natural history detail of British amphibians, this isn't it; but if you're after a captivating narration of how we found out about their natural history, this book is definitely recommended.
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Arnold Cooke worked for the national nature conservation agencies as a researcher and adviser on a range of topics for 30 years. After studying amphibian population declines with the Nature Conservancy, he was herpetological adviser for the Nature Conservancy Council. In the late 1990s, he left English Nature to pursue his interests in amphibians, birds and deer. He has published widely on subjects as diverse as the status of Britain’s amphibians and reptiles, pollutants in birds and the environmental impacts of introduced species of deer. His book Muntjac and Water Deer was published by Pelagic in 2019.

By: Arnold Cooke(Author), Trevor JC Beebee(Foreword By)
300 pages, 106 colour photos, 24 b/w illustrations, 7 b/w maps, 32 colour tables
A personal history of amphibian conservation in Britain based on more than half a century of professional experience.
Media reviews

"A detailed, easy-to-read and insightful book on the natural history and ecology of Britain's amphibians as studied by the author, with fascinating primary data spanning many decades. Particularly at this time of rapid change this is an important benchmark for current and future herpetologists to better understand and contextualise their findings."
– Dr Silviu Petrovan, Senior Research Associate, Conservation Science Group, University of Cambridge

"Arnold Cooke is a pioneer of amphibian conservation in Britain. His engaging personal account of how the field has developed over five decades embraces the personalities, politics and the research, demonstrating that good science remains rooted in sound natural history."
– Professor Richard Griffiths FRSB, University of Kent

"This book is a timely reminder of how little was known about amphibians, their populations and the issues affecting their conservation, and how, within a life time – or, indeed, a career – this has changed. While this is a personal account that documents his own significant contributions, Arnie Cooke provides a fascinating summary of some of the earlier work that underpinned amphibian research and conservation at the time. A valuable insight for those involved in amphibian and research today; to know where you're going next, it is useful to know where the path you're treading began."
– Dr Tony Gent, CEO, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation

"Arnold Cooke has packed a lot into more than half a century of both professional and private work with Britain's frogs, toads and newts so Tadpole Hunter is a valuable reference. It is not only a personal memoir, but includes a huge amount of natural history and research information and provides a history of amphibian conservation in Britain up to the present day."
– John Baker, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

"Arnold Cooke provides a wonderful insight into the developments of amphibian conservation in the latter half of the 20th Century, up to the present day. Cooke also provides a genealogy of previous researchers before embarking on a very personal journey through his career in both research and conservation. Tadpole Hunter is a powerful contribution to the narrative of amphibian conservation in Great Britain, while also highlighting the threats that face these often overlooked species, and what may await them in the future."
– Dr Steven Allain, British Herpetological Society

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