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Species native to the United Kingdom
Introduced or alien species
Alien species that present a threat to wildlife

African Clawed Toad or Frog - Xenopus laevis - Alien


Tailless Amphibian - smooth and very slimey skin

Distinctive appearance, very flattened body and head profile. The outer 3 toes of the hind feet have horny black claws. Powerful looking hind limbs, eyes are situated on top of the head giving the impression that the animal is staring upwards. Clear lateral line organs, often appearing like "stitches" along the flanks.

Very aquatic and rarely seen out of water.

Dorsal colour is brown or grey, often with dark spots or blotches.

Adults 12 cm or more.

African Clawed Toad
© Jeff Bowes

The African Clawed Toad, claw on hind toe highlighted.

UK Distribution

Not well suited to the British climate, however some successful breeding has occurred. The first feral colony was discovered in the Isle of Wight following deliberate releases in 1962, now thought to be extinct. Two large and extensive populations were discovered in South Wales in 1979, one of these populations is still thriving in some pools, but its extent is thought to have declined since the 1980's.


Exotic - The African Clawed Toad has been imported in very large numbers mainly for biomedical research. Though some deliberate introductions have occurred it is also likely that other individuals have escaped from research facilities. Due to this toads extremely secretive nature it is possible that a number of undiscovered populations exist. There have been reports of adult toads being captured in Southwest England, it is unknown whether breeding had occurred.

Studies have shown that the Welsh populations mostly predate freshwater crustaceans, though fears exist that this large anuran may also feed on the tadpoles of native species.

Of African origin and unknown impact, it would seem prudent that this species is not encouraged to spread further in the UK.

Release of exotic species into the wild is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

This includes introduction of exotic or alien species that may already have become established.

The interpretation of "wild" in the act includes private gardens from which escape is possible.

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