Thursday, May 28, 2009

Investigate this Toad Mystery!

I was wondering the other day at morning: what creature’s scat (animal dropping) could it be! It was black, shiny, smooth and of light weight in the shape of a capsule, lying on the garden. Could it be that of a snake or a bandicoot? I saw the scats each morning and was bewildered.

One day I crushed a scat into pieces with a stick: I found the shiny black heads of ants of various sizes in a brownish matrix! I was astonished. Could it be that of a toad?

Connecting the places where the trails of scats were found led me to the junk room where the toads usually lurk at daytime. Yes, those scats were those of Toads only (Bufo fowleri, ‘Theaurai’ in Tamil). Here in Tamil Nadu, there is a belief that if one kills a toad the person will be contracting the disease, Leprosy! I had tried to kill these toads: but I am often cheated by them. After an hour of beating and ‘killing,’ when I turn up to see the toad’s body it would have disappeared! Toads cannot be killed: they escape by playing dead. But they have to be beaten to pieces for that – as they attract snakes into the garden. Toads have been described in Puranic Tamil songs that they are seen even inside stones! They easily burrow into the sand and aestivate – to escape the unbearable hot and dry summer; their extra moist skin saves them from being dried up. They emerge out of the sand as soon as the monsoon starts.
This wonder toad camouflages to merge with the surrounding – with its brownish skin coloration!

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