Mystery of toads that explode in the night
From Roger Boyes in Berlin
http://127.0.0.1:1027/bug.cgi AN OUTBREAK of exploding toads is perplexing the residents of Hamburg. The affected creatures seem to behave quite normally, croaking and languidly snapping up flies. Suddenly, after nightfall, they start to balloon to more than three times their normal size and can barely crawl before popping. Their entrails are expelled distances of up to one metre.
Thousands of the green amphibians have died this way. “It is a deeply shocking sight,” said Werner Smolnik, a leading activist from the Nabu environmental protection group.
NI_MPU(‘middle’);A meeting of wildlife experts has been summoned to explain the phenomenon, which has occurred near a lake in a fashionable part of the city. Tabloid newspapers have already called it the “Pond of Death.”
Dogs and children have been warned away. The force of the explosions is impressive. “It’s like hitting a slightly rotten orange with a golf iron,” one Green activist explained yesterday.
Heidi Mayerhofer, a biologist who has been called in to find an answer to the riddle, said: “The worst thing is that they’re not dead immediately. They have to fight for their lives for minutes on end despite the fact that their entrails have been shot across the park.”
The experts’ main concern is that the illness could spread. “We cannot exclude some possibility of humans being infected,” Herr Smolnik said. Water samples from the lake have been taken for analysis but no obvious bacteria or deadly pollution seems to be present in the water. Other explanations are a virus or a new breed of aggressive crows. The birds have been seen attacking toads and one theory is that the toads swell up as a defence mechanism which then gets out of control. Alternatively, the toads could be committing suicide in order to protect the toad community as a whole. Attacks by crows have certainly diminished since the toads started to blow themselves up. Germans are particularly attached to toads and they have become, in some respects, a symbol of the Green movement. The Government has allocated £153,000 for toad tunnels underneath roads to protect the animals from traffic.